The Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup and cement Vegas as a sports city
Mark Stone celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Vegas Golden Knights won the NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena on June 13, 2023 in Las Vegas.
Jeff Spear | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images
The Stanley Cup belongs to Sin City.
The Vegas Golden Knights won the league championship in just their sixth season in the NHL on Tuesday night, completing a 4-1 series win over the Cinderella Florida Panthers.
Vegas’ meteoric rise to the top of hockey took the sports world by surprise, but it’s exactly what owner Bill Foley intended when he paid the $500 million expansion fee in 2016.
It’s a remarkable feat for an expansion team in any sport, but especially for a hockey team in a desert city that, until recently, was also a desert for professional team sports.
Now the who’s who of Las Vegas have become fans of the Golden Knights.
“I was in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals and the T-Mobile Arena was absolutely electrifying,” Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resort, told CNBC on Wednesday.
On Golden Knights game days, the MGM grounds around the team’s home stadium, T-Mobile Arena, are packed with customers. That’s what former MGM CEO Jim Murren envisioned in 2017 when describing his efforts to transform Sin City into a Sports City.
It’s also more than just hockey. Vegas’ success in the NHL also underscores the city’s rapid development as a major player in the sport.
Murren was champion of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, then owned by MGM and later sold in 2021 to Mark Davis, owner of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Apparently Davis has embraced the concept of Las Vegas as a sports destination. In 2020, he moved his long-established football franchise, which has long been a California staple, to the city. The team’s Allegiant Stadium will host the Super Bowl in Las Vegas for the first time next year.
The Golden Knights have been contenders since their freshman season. They quickly garnered a huge following and made it to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Washington Capitals. Prior to their championship that year, the Golden Knights reached the conference finals twice and missed the playoffs only once.
The team’s home games often sell out, which attracts both locals and tourists. During hockey season, the city wears black and gold. MGM Resorts drapes a Golden Knights jersey atop his replica Statue of Liberty in front of New York, New York.
The community spirit surrounding the NHL team can be felt throughout the city’s sports scene.
Horbuckle said, “This is an exciting time for our city as we cement our status as one of the premier sports and entertainment destinations in the world.”
Las Vegas native Sandra Douglass Morgan is now the Raiders president. She said in a recent interview with CNBC that her hometown will capture the imagination of sports fans around the world with its entertainment, dining, shopping and, of course, gambling opportunities.
“We will ensure that we continue to provide these life-changing experiences to Las Vegas and the 40 million visitors from around the world,” she said.
Las Vegas casinos are also benefiting from the inaugural Formula 1 race in the city, which is set to take place in November. Wynn, for example, offers a five-star weekend package priced at $1 million.
While Las Vegas lost out to a major league soccer expansion team this year, a major league baseball team appears to be on the way.
The Oakland A’s have signed multiple agreements to move the team to a Las Vegas location. The Nevada Senate this week approved a $380 million public funding bill for a professional ballpark. The bill now goes to the State Assembly.
Rumors and hopes have circulated for years about the potential for a National Basketball Association expansion team, although nothing concrete has materialized.
For now, however, Las Vegas is firmly in love with the Golden Knights, a pride that forces locals to brave the dreaded Strip tourists and traffic to support their team.
And now the Knights are the kings of hockey.