The Las Vegas Golden Knights played their first game in franchise history on October 6, 2017. It was a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Barely six months later, they were playing in their first ever playoff series, which ended last night with a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings to sweep the two-time Stanley Cup champions (2012, 2014).
Expansions teams aren’t supposed to even compete—let alone dominate—in their inaugural season, but the Golden Knights apparently didn’t get the memo. Led by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s exceptional play all year, Las Vegas looks like a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup, which would make for an all-time great sports story.
It would also open the door for Las Vegas to become America’s next great sports city.
In 2020, the Raiders are moving to Vegas, and they are fully expected to be perennial Super Bowl contenders. Jon Gruden’s return is a definite jolt to the franchise, but it’s also more than that because of the stability he will bring after signing a 10-year deal. (It’s probably safe to say he won’t be getting traded anytime soon.)
Plus, the Silver and Black have a franchise signal-caller in Derek Carr that is just entering the prime of his career at 27-years-old, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him last the entirety of Gruden’s unprecedented contract. So basically, the Raiders should have Patriots-level continuity through the relocation process.
And while it will be tough to leave the Oakland faithful, the team will have a fired-up and ready-to-win fanbase ready for them in Vegas—a city that might be ready to become the 14th city/area to have teams from the four major sports.
Team owners in major sports are starting to embrace Vegas as a destination because betting on sports has become more acceptable in recent years, and the NBA could be next to expand. While I don’t agree with the notion, many believe professional basketball is turning into America’s favorite sport, and Vegas will undoubtedly be at or towards the top of the list when an expansion team inevitably forms, especially when you consider the work the city does hosting the NBA Summer League.
That leaves just baseball when it comes to the four major sports. There has been some talk of a franchise expansion in Portland, and Nashville has always seemed like a prime spot for an MLB franchise, but I don’t think Las Vegas should be discounted from eventually getting a team. In fact, the city already has a minor league team—the Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets)—and the MLB might not want to be left out of the fun in Nevada.
But it all comes back to the Golden Knights. Their wild success this season and so far in the postseason is creating an opportunity for the city to be more than just a destination for gamblers and bachelor parties.
The Golden Knight are creating a new culture. A winning culture where you don’t have to get lucky to win. And winning is the norm.
Perhaps the Corleone family will bankroll an expansion team. “Las Vegas Godfathers” certainly has a ring to it.