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Gawlik: Misconceptions About Golden Knights



There are a series of misconceptions that fans of the Vegas Golden Knights must deal with. Starting with people saying the NHL spoon-fed Vegas a great team via the expansion draft, claims of cap circumvention, and that Vegas has no real hockey fans.

Expansion Draft: There are a lot of things that come to mind when thinking about a Stanley Cup-contending roster. A quality battery that consists of a marquee No. 1 center and defensemen is the first building block. Shortly after is a quality goaltender or a couple of decent goaltenders. Besides Marc-Andre Fleury, there was not any marquee-level talent on the expansion draft roster for the Golden Knights.

Fleury leads Vegas Golden Knights' expansion draft choices | KSNV

Let’s look at how various media outlets projected the Golden Knights to finish in season one. The Hockey News predicted eighth place in the Pacific Division and the best-case scenario being, “maybe they won’t finish last overall.”

“A poker pro has a better chance of hitting a straight flush on the river than the Golden Knights have of making the playoffs.”

—ESPN writer Tal Pinchevsky

You get where I am going with this. The script flipped quickly. The new take was that the NHL spoon-fed Vegas a great team via the expansion draft.

General manager Kelly McCrimmon (assistant GM at the time) did not believe in the expansion roster even after the team lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Washington Capitals. He claimed the roster was unsustainable as a number of players had career seasons.

Salary Cap Circumvention: Mark Stone missed 84 of the last 162 regular-season games. Claims of cap circumvention started when Stone was back for Game 1 of the playoffs after being out since Jan. 12. Elliotte Friedman addressed this on his “32 Thoughts: The Podcast” not long after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup:

“The NHL went hard at Vegas this time, in terms of investigating them and asking for the medical reports on Stone. During the season there were teams that complained, and the league backed (Vegas).”


Teams wanted an investigation and got one. The Golden Knights produced Stone’s medical reports and the league concluded no wrongdoing.

Hockey fans have also been chirping about the Golden Knights being over the non-existent salary cap during the playoffs. The salary cap rules are the same for every team in the NHL. Ownership and management voted to not have a salary cap during the playoffs.

Is Vegas a hockey town with real hockey fans? Let’s see what Max Pacioretty had to say about this on the Raw Knuckles podcast:

“I mentioned that at the end of the year that no one is really holding us accountable. If we have a bad year like this, the city would be half on fire in Montreal. Here in Vegas, it’s 80 degrees, and it’s sunny. We’re getting our car washed and getting our organic food, and going to play golf.”

Vegas is a new hockey city, and it’s fair to acknowledge that hockey may not be as important in Vegas when comparing it to Montreal. The same can possibly be said about any original six hockey city and most cities with teams in Canada.

The season ticket drive for an unnamed hockey franchise started in February 2015. The goal was 10,000 deposits, and 5,000 deposits were secured in the first two days, 9,000 deposits within the first month. By September it was announced that the limit had been reached for 16,000 deposits for season tickets.

Maybe that seems like a long time to sell out the season tickets. After all, the Seattle Kraken secured 25,000 season ticket deposits within the first hour of their drive. But Seattle is a city with a rich history of professional sports franchises. A professional sports team in Vegas was unchartered waters.

Per HockeyDB, the Golden Knights had an average attendance of 18,042 during the 2022-23 season. The official sellout number for T-Mobile Arena is 17,500. The Golden Knights have exceeded the sellout number for five of their first six seasons, Covid attendance figures not factored.

Hockey fans visiting the Las Vegas Strip claim that they do not see much Golden Knights fanfare. Those fans need to take a trip away the strip. You can’t go more than 30 seconds without seeing someone in a Golden Knights hat, a billboard congratulating the Golden Knights, or Golden Knights posters in local businesses. The support for the Golden Knights is on display 24/7.

Is Vegas a hockey town with real hockey fans? Take a look at the picture below and decide for yourself. Those are not tourists.

Golden Knights Parade Hockey


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