This is the second in a seven-part series here on Jet City Ice, providing you with a guide to the Pacific Division teams, those that our beloved Seattle franchise will see most frequently during the season.
Today we start with our only-slightly-older sibling franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Borne of an unholy tryst between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Spring Valley Home Owners’ Association (spelled ‘M-O-B’), this franchise fee scam serves merely to enrich the existing owners while providing a fertile bed for rigged sports-book shenanigans at off-the-strip casinos. It’s such a preposterous waste of time that it makes the Alliance of American Football look like a rousing success.
Let’s start with the name. Golden Knights? You would think that this was the result of a random drawing from submissions of 4th-graders in rural Nevada, but no. The owner himself came up with this feeble moniker, apparently while masturbating to slow motion replays of Game of Thrones episodes. Vague, shapeless, and mostly just pathetic, the Golden Knights have the Anaheim Ducks breathing a sigh of relief that nobody is going to continue picking on them for being the most ridiculous mascot north of the UC – Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.
Secondly, another desert team? Really? You didn’t learn your lesson with the Coyotes? Explaining Bettman’s motivation is key to understanding why this happened. Mr. Bettman is after TV ratings. He doesn’t care about the game of hockey, he doesn’t care about the players, the teams, or the fans. All he wants is money, and to get the big money, you have to get TV ratings. That means putting teams into as many large TV markets as possible.
So you get Tampa, Miami (the Panthers), Atlanta (as if the first time wasn’t a big enough spanking), Columbus (WHAT?), Carolina (this is a joke, right?) and Phoenix. There is no hockey fan base in any of these towns; there are simply lots of warm bodies with remote controls. So you can soon add Las Vegas to the list of teams with 16,000 empty seats each night.
And finally, the stark reality: this simply isn’t going to last. Las Vegas is a gilded shit-hole, and its permanent residents consist of minimum-wage casino workers and the gambling addicts they serve. The city and surrounding county has grown at a net pace of about 1.5% annually over the last decade, but what they don’t tell you is that population turnover is staggering. That means the pool of ticket buyers from last year is smaller next year, and that trend won’t stop. It also means season ticket holders will be leaving by the hundreds.
The other relevant demographic statistic surrounding the population growth in Las Vegas is, who is moving in. The city likes to boast about the number of people under age 35 who are moving into the area. But they don’t tell you that the second-largest group of arrivals are low- and fixed-income retirees. They don’t have disposable cash for sports tickets and merchandise, and for the most part they don’t follow sports at all! These are people fleeing the annual double-digit cost of living increases in California — another non-hockey region of the country.
Then there are the kids. Teams recently came to the realization that the key to building and sustaining a fan base is children. The Chicago Blackhawks are a prime example. Chicago has dozens of rinks in the city and suburbs, and while trying to bring their fan base back from oblivion between 2007 and 2010 you would see Duncan Keith out on the ice for a youth team practice, or Denis Savard hanging out in the lobby signing autographs, or Pat Foley doing a meet-and-greet. Kids are the key: they get interested, they pester their parents to buy them jerseys and other merchandise, and most of all they beg Dad to take them to a game — so there’s $100 spent on tickets, trinkets, and concessions. Plus, kids who have Patrick Kane join them for practice one day are Blackhawks fans for life.
Unless they leave town, and in the case of Las Vegas, we’ve already established that they will. So all the outreach in the world won’t be effective in the long run. Never mind that there are a mere three ice rinks in the Las Vegas area.
No, it’s very plain that the revenue stream for this team is a ticking time bomb, and that means the Golden Knights will eventually land precisely where the Coyotes landed — bankrupt, owned and controlled by the league, desperately looking for a better arena deal and a new ownership group that will commit to preserving Gary Bettman’s fragile ego by keeping the team in place. It’s simply unsustainable, and anyone not blinded by dollar signs can see that. We might as well start calling them Les Chevaliers d’Or right now.
So let that be our starting point. The Las Vegas Golden Knights and their idiotic mascot are detestable in every respect, never mind the very idea that putting a hockey team in the middle of Death Valley was anything more than a fool’s errand.
So for the first game at home against Vegas, let’s all wear Nordiques jerseys and throw French-English dictionaries on their end of the ice during warm-ups. Nothing would be more fitting. On se voit là-bas!