As Vegas Golden Knights fans hit pause for the Thanksgiving weekend, I hope everyone takes a moment to pause and reflect. This year hasn’t been easy on many of us when it comes to jobs, family, and our mental/physical health. That said, I hope you are able to take a moment and be grateful for what we do have. I’m thankful you’re here. Welcome.
When it comes to being a VGK fan, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I hope this list inspires some quality discussion, and if you’re stuck at the dinner table you could always bring up this or “who is on your Mount Rushmore of…” topic for anything. Well, maybe this year just ask what three or four people, places or things belong on your list. Mount Rushmore might be kinda touchy.
As an aside, if you’re looking for our Fanatics store discount link for your hockey holiday shopping, here it is: Fanatics Vegas Golden Knights via VHN
Without further ado, here are three huge reasons to be thankful as a Golden Knights fan.
1 – Bill Foley
Foley’s ownership is unique in sports. Yes, there are some owners who put their money where their mouth is. Yes, there are some owners who are some combination of outspoken and honest. And yes, there are owners who are motivated to win a championship and realize the importance of properly backing that endeavor on all fronts.
Bill Foley is all three.
Foley has the confidence in his decision-making process to hire smart people and let them do their jobs. How many times do you see owners who made their fortune in another business roll into sports and decide they already know everything? As someone who has worked in the private sector as well as spending 20 years around pro sports, I can tell you they’re miles apart. So could anyone who has spent a couple of years trying to sell tickets or corporate advertising in this realm. Sure, there are some principles that cross over, but running and managing a professional hockey team is just different. So Foley allows his hockey people to be hockey people.
Foley also makes no bones about what’s going on from his perspective. He was the first one to realistically pose a February 1 start date. He also was pretty straightforward about how important it is to have fans in the stands this year. It’s rare a team owner is so candid. Foley’s thoughts are not reactionary, they’re constructed from facts as they relate to him, the team, and fans.
And yes, he’s motivated to win a Stanley Cup. Many owners can say they want to win. Foley has put a plan in place and followed it, supporting it as best he can from all angles. For an expansion team, the VGK have had amazing results so far.
2 – Timing
Timing has played a major role in Vegas’ success so far on and off the ice. The Golden Knights came into the league at a time when most GMs were woefully unprepared for an expansion draft. George McPhee took advantage of that big-time by swinging deals to net players, prospects and a ton of draft picks. Some of those prospects have already panned out for Vegas. Some early draft picks were dealt for more established players. And the return value for Vegas on the expansion draft protections given was a massive plus for the team.
Now, I’ve seen opinions where people say he missed on this deal or that deal. Well I have news for you, no GM has ever hit on every single trade. McPhee did so much to ensure the early success of this team and somehow managed to build a win-now team out of what other teams considered spare parts. That’s no small accomplishment!
The other critical timing component was beating the Raiders to Las Vegas. As someone who has worked in sports talk radio as well, I can tell you that our fancy consultants told us one simple truth: you can talk the NFL 24/7/365 and it draws ratings. The NFL is a media juggernaut. Getting on the ice before the Raiders took the field was so important for the Golden Knights because it allowed them to build their base as Vegas’ first pro sports team. And build they have! Fandom is massive! Getting out in front of the Raiders to be the talk of the town has paid off in spades. Great timing.
3 – Marc-Andre Fleury
There are several players who have contributed to the success of the Golden Knights on the ice. Some guys have become familiar faces off it as well. Marc-Andre Fleury was a gift from the hockey gods because he does both, possibly better than any player in the league.
When Fleury’s name was called to come to Vegas, I’m sure it was with mixed emotions. New opportunities are exciting. Things had become complicated in Pittsburgh, a place Fleury had called home for his entire career. He was no longer the starter but still a valued member of the team. He was loved by almost everyone who followed the team. And now he had to move to the desert and start all over again.
It’s hard to measure Fleury’s total impact. People have named their dogs after him. He’s synonymous with the number 29 in Vegas. You see him on billboards. More importantly, he’s leading the way in the community. Most recently Fleury donated $100k of his own money to help Vegas Golden Knights game day workers during the pandemic. (thread here):
“A big part of what makes the Vegas Golden Knights game day experience so memorable is the staff working behind the scenes. As players we truly appreciate all the employees who work so hard in making The Fortress the best place to play in the NHL.” – Marc-Andre Fleury. #VegasBorn
— Ryan The Hockey Guy (@RyanHockeyGuy) March 19, 2020
“We can’t wait to see the employees and our fans again soon.” – Last bit from Fleury.
This is the kind of act that has separated Marc-Andre Fleury from the pack his entire career.#VegasBorn
— Ryan The Hockey Guy (@RyanHockeyGuy) March 19, 2020
One of the last things Fleury did before he left Pittsburgh was finance the construction of a new playground. He’s been nominated for the King Clancy Award which honors leadership and humanitarian contributions in the community.
I could go on. Fleury is just that type of person. Vegas fans should be thankful for whatever time they have left with him in goal – he will be the first player to have worn the sweater inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
What are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments. I hope everyone is safe, happy and healthy this weekend and always.