I’ve been a hockey fan since I went to my first game in February of 1990. Somebody gave me free tickets to see the Kings beat the crap out of the Quebec Nordiques. Instantly, a Kings fan was born.
Twenty two years later I had the amazing opportunity to watch the Kings win the Stanley Cup. Even though I had already lived in Vegas for more than a decade, LA was still my “hometown” and the Kings were most definitely my team. To say I bled for the Kings could be no more obvious than the Kings logo tattoo I wear on the back of my leg. So when it was announced a few years back that Vegas would be awarded an NHL franchise, I was excited, but fully expected that the Kings would remain my team.
We got a team, but I still love the Kings!
We were some of the first to order season seats for the new team in Vegas. I think everybody’s plan was similar. We’d get a new team here in Vegas that we would casually root for and support until the Kings came to town. Then, we’d put on our Black and Silver and cheer for the Kings. That’s not exactly what happened.
It took a long time to get the team here. And, as the idea of a team grew into a reality, the excitement around the team was building. But they still had never played a game. We went to a couple of the pre-season games, and they looked NOTHING like the team we’re watching today. And when we went to the pre-season game they played against the Kings, I wore my Knights jersey and was amazed at how torn I felt over who to root for. It was one of the least fun games I’ve even been to. Ever.
Hurting and healing in Vegas
I’ve lived in Vegas for about sixteen years. More than half my adult life. I’ve loved it here since the beginning and have often said that I would find it really difficult to move anywhere else.
Hours before the shooting in Vegas on October 1st, my wife and I were at the hockey game, less than a mile from where the shooting took place. We have friends who were there and we have friends who have family members that were shot. People fail to realize exactly how small a town Las Vegas is. Pretty much everybody in Vegas was affected by the events either directly or indirectly.
A week and a half later, we were back at the arena to watch the first regular season game in the team’s history. Normally, this would be a night of spectacle and celebration. Instead, the Golden Knights put together a pre-game show to honor the victims and celebrate the first responders. It was touching and very emotional. The game that night was a welcome mental break from the media barrage that followed the events of October 1st. In a word, the night was perfect.
So, what’s it gonna be?
It didn’t take long to figure out that I had become a Knights fan. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it probably had something to do with attending a bunch of games with our friends and having a great time. The team was winning at a crazy rate, especially at home, and the team scores a LOT of goals which meant that the arena was rockin’ all the time. It’s impossible not to have a good time at the games.
When the regular season ended and the matchups for the first round of the playoffs were finalized, the Golden Knights were set to play the Kings. (Because, of course they are) I received several messages asking who I planned on rooting for. A reasonable question to ask somebody who had been a Kings fan for the past two decades. The answer was easy.
Earlier this week, I was at T-Mobile Arena watching the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Kings. I was texting with my lifelong buddy and die hard Kings fan who has being (rightfully) giving me crap about the Knights. He said to me “I still don’t understand why you’re a Knights fan.” It was something I had been thinking about myself. Shortly after that conversation, I found an ESPN article that summed it up far better than I could:
It would not have been surprising if the Kings remained the most popular hockey team in Vegas during the Golden Knights’ first few lean seasons, as most predicted the Knights would struggle initially. But in the aftermath of the mass shooting on Oct. 1, an unbreakable bond was formed between this city and this team that only strengthened by the Knights’ historic success on the ice, as they won the Pacific Division and finished with the fifth-best record in the league. Golden Knights players and coaches adopted this city, and fans from North Las Vegas, Summerlin, Boulder City, Henderson and all over Clark County adopted them as one of their own, wearing shirts with the hashtag #VegasBorn and #VegasStrong. This was more than just pride for an expansion team; this was pride for a city.
This is my home. This is my team. Go Knights, Go!