LAS VEGAS – The Vegas Golden Knights championship coronation plans are settled. They will close the Vegas Strip in both directions to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Golden Knights fans and probably as many tourists who gravitate toward the emotional outpouring that will be the communion of the Misfits and the VGK faithful with the Stanley Cup in tow.
It will be a spectacle that may exceed anything the NHL has ever seen. An estimated one million people turned out in Detroit to celebrate the 2002 Red Wings, full of fan favorites and Hall of Famers. About 500,000 packed downtown Denver last year.
Something tells me Vegas will make both look like child’s play.
Vegas always ups the presentation factor. Always.
And the point of this post is: Don’t take any of it for granted. Not a moment.
Before you blink, all of this will be over. Preparations for a Cup defense will be underway. GM Kelly McCrimmon will be making more changes, popular and unpopular.
But you and the 2023 Golden Knights will always have each other unless you take it for granted.
You see, I’m from Pittsburgh. I grew up watching the player I consider the greatest ever, Mario Lemieux. It took seven years before the organization surrounded him with enough talent to win. His career arc very closely resembled Connor McDavid’s until Mario and Pittsburgh won Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.
Overnight, the rowdy crowd that used to shake the arena to its foundation for minutes on end became a sit-on-your-hands bunch that expected greatness and was pleased by nothing less.
Pittsburgh went through the same cycle after 2008 and 2009. A Stanley Cup Final loss in ’08 only wetted fans’ appetite. The new generation again shook the old Civic Arena so hard TV cameras couldn’t remain still. Pittsburgh won the second chance at a Cup in ’09, and again what followed was a hand-sitting atmosphere.
Goalie Thomas Greiss mocked it on his way out the door after one season in Pittsburgh, calling it a morgue.
Chicago had the nastiest turn. After three Stanley Cups in five years, the boys aged quickly. When the championships stopped, fan adoration became venomous toward a few players, especially Brent Seabrook.
Some folks only show up for the playoffs or forget they exist without the reflected glory of silver trophies. The same has happened to cities across the league. Carolina has won a couple of conference championships and one Stanley Cup, but only recently did fans find out that hockey season begins before March.
Vegas, I’ve never experienced a fan base quite like you. So optimistic, so loyal, but it’s easier to be that way during the chase. Now that the heavyweight belt is across the Vegas Golden Knights’ waist, remember the other side and the chase.
Always remember how hard it was for Bill Foley to convince the NHL to allow a team in the gambling mecca of the world. Always remember how much that first year’s disappointment stung. Misfits will come and go. Always remember, winning is fleeting; 31 teams each year wonder “what if.”
And, never change.
Savor the joy and unbridled enthusiasm that comes from helping to push your team to the highest level. Always remember the joy of sharing that celebration with them.
“They are one of us. We are one of them,” said Foley on the ice following the Golden Knights championship.
Always remember. Never take it for granted.
Enjoy the Vegas Golden Knights parade. You’ve earned it.