Mark Stone celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Vegas Golden Knights won the NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, June 13, 2023.
Jeff Speer | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images
The Stanley Cup belongs to Sin City.
The Vegas Golden Knights, in just their sixth season in the NHL, won the league’s championship Tuesday night, completing a 4-1 series victory over the Cinderella Florida Panthers.
Vegas’ meteoric rise to the top of hockey has surprised the sports world, but it’s exactly what owner Bill Foley intended when he plunked down the $500 million expansion fee in 2016.
It’s a remarkable accomplishment for an expansion team in any sport, but especially for an ice hockey team in a desert city that had, until recently, also been a desert for professional team sports.
Now, the who’s who of Las Vegas have become Golden Knights fans.
“I was at Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and T-Mobile Arena was absolutely electric,” MGM Resorce CEO Bill Hornbuckle told CNBC on Wednesday.
On Golden Knights game days, MGM properties surrounding the team’s home, T-Mobile Arena, are crowded with customers. That’s what former MGM CEO Jim Murren envisioned in 2017, when he described his efforts to turn Sin City into Sports City.
It’s more than just hockey, too. Vegas’ success in the NHL also underlines the city’s rapid development into a major player in sports.
Murren championed the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, which MGM owned at the time and later sold to Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis in 2021.
Clearly, Davis has bought into the concept as Las Vegas as a sports destination. He moved his storied football franchise, long a staple of California, to the city in 2020. The team’s Allegiant Stadium will welcome the Super Bowl to Vegas for the first time next year.
The Golden Knights have been contenders since their first season. They quickly garnered a fierce fanbase while making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in 2018, losing to the Washington Capitals. Between then and its championship this year, the Golden Knights made the conference finals twice and missed the playoffs only once.
The team often sells out its home games, drawing locals and tourists alike. The city dons black and gold during hockey season. MGM Resorts drapes a Golden Knights jersey on its replica Statue of Liberty outside New York New York.
The community spirit surrounding the NHL team is felt throughout the city’s sports scene.
Horbuckle said, ” This is an exciting time for our city as we cement our status as one of the top sports and entertainment destinations in the world. “
Las Vegas native Sandra Douglass Morgan is now president of the Raiders. She told CNBC in a recent interview that her hometown is poised to capture the imagination of sports fans everywhere, with its entertainment, dining, shopping and, of course, gambling options.
“We’re going to make sure that we continue to provid Las Vegas and the 40 million visitors from across the world these life-changing experiences,” she said.
Vegas’ casinos are also capitalizing on Formula 1’s inaugural race in the city, set for November. Wynn, for example, is offering a five-star weekend package with a price tag of one million dollars.
While Las Vegas lost out this year on a Major League Soccer expansion team, a Major League Baseball team looks like it’s on the way.
The Oakland A’s have signed multiple agreements to relocate the team to a Vegas location. The Nevada Senate this week approved a bill to raise $380 million in public funds toward a professional baseball stadium. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.
Rumors and hopes have persisted for years about the potential for an expansion team from the National Basketball Association, though nothing solid has emerged.
For now, though, Las Vegas is firmly enamored with the Golden Knights, a pride that compels locals to brave the dreaded Strip tourists and traffic to support their team.
And now the Knights are the kings of hockey.