Tuesday, June 13, 2023 | 8:36 p.m.
This all happened so quickly.
One moment, Las Vegas is hoping to become home to a major professional sports franchise. The next, it’s home to the finest franchise in the NHL — and with some of the greatest fans in the league.
The Golden Knights finished off the Florida Panthers on Tuesday to become Stanley Cup champions, putting an exclamation point on a memorable 10-year journey.
Yes, it took that long to get to the top of the hockey mountain.
Here’s a look at how the dominoes fell:
June 19, 2013: MGM/AEG announced plans for a privately funded, $375 million arena on the Strip. The 20,000-seat facility would provide the venue for Las Vegas’ professional sports dreams to become a reality. T-Mobile Arena would become home to many memorable evenings of Golden Knights hockey — highlighted by Tuesday’s Stanley Cup Final-clinching win.
Feb, 10, 2015: With the “Vegas Wants Hockey” mantra, Bill Foley announced he was pursuing bringing an expansion team to Las Vegas. The first order of business: A season ticket drive. If more than 10,000 fans agreed to buy tickets, it would show the league this untraditional market would be a viable option to host a franchise.
Foley said the goal of the drive was to “prove that our community, without question, can support a team.” Foley said: “You buy those tickets, and I will get a team. If those tickets get sold, we will get a team in Las Vegas.” Within a few months, the future franchise had 14,000 confirmed season-ticket deposits and sold-out luxury suites.
June 22, 2016: The NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously approved an expansion franchise for Las Vegas. “We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity, not only for Las Vegas but for the league as well,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. Foley put up more than $500 million for expansion fees and startup costs.
Nov. 22, 2016: The franchise revealed its name, the Vegas Golden Knights. A wrinkle that generated much discussion was using “Vegas” to identify the team. “The local people refer to Vegas, not Las Vegas,” Foley said. “The people from out of town refer to ‘Las Vegas.’”
Vegas falls in love
Oct. 6, 2017: The Golden Knights won the first game in franchise history by beating the Dallas Stars 2-1. James Neal had a pair of third-period goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury’s legend in Vegas started to grow with a 45-save effort.
Oct. 11, 2017: The Golden Knights scored four goals in the initial 10:42 against the Arizona Coyotes in a 5-2 victory during the franchise’s initial home game. They were the first expansion franchise to start 3-0-0. The evening was highlighted by an emotional pregame tribute honoring the victims and first responders of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Strip that immediately claimed 58 lives and injured at least 500 others.
The game, and subsequent season, started the love affair between a city and a franchise that helped the community heal.
May 20, 2018: Vegas beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 to win the Western Conference Final and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Fleury had 31 saves, and Ryan Reaves had the series-winning goal.
June 7, 2018: Vegas fell to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup to close the book on a memorable first season. The franchise came up short of the title but gained plenty of momentum for future success. Las Vegas was officially a hockey city moving forward.
Building a champion
June 21, 2017: The Golden Knights’ initial roster took shape through the expansion draft. The team selected Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins with the first pick and tabbed other players instrumental in the championship run. They included stalwarts from the championship team like Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, William Carrier, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore and Reilly Smith.
Feb. 25, 2019: Mark Stone was traded to the Golden Knights from the Ottawa Senators and agreed to an eight-year contract extension. He would become the Vegas captain — and arguably its most important player.
Oct. 23, 2020: The Golden Knights made a splash in free agency by signing St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract. He went on to become their best defender.
Aug. 30, 2022: Looking to add goaltender depth, the Golden Knights traded a fourth-round draft pick in the 2024 NHL Draft to the San Jose Sharks for Adin Hill. The journeyman was supposed to compete with Laurent Brossoit for backup duties behind Logan Thompson. But injuries paved the way for Hill to man the net for the playoff run, and he got hot at the right time in helping Vegas win the Cup.
Behind the bench
Jan. 17, 2020: In a surprise move, Gerard Gallant, the first coach in franchise history who led Vegas to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, was fired and replaced with Peter DeBoer. He had history with the Golden Knights from his time coaching with San Jose, which beat Vegas in seven games in the 2019 playoffs. The Sharks erupted for four goals after they were given a controversial 5-minute power play in the third period. The league later apologized for the penalty.
May 16, 2022: DeBoer, despite twice leading Vegas to the playoff semifinals, was fired after the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s five-year history. He was 98-50-12 in parts of three seasons.
June 14, 2022: Bruce Cassidy, who was 245-108-46 in six seasons leading the Boston Bruins, was hired to be the Golden Knights’ new coach. Cassidy was a hot commodity in the job market, and proved to be the right coach to get Vegas over the hump.
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