Las Vegas Golden Knights are Stanley Cup champions after what turned out to be a comfortable victory over Flordia Panthers in the NHL’s postseason showpiece final.
The result never seemed in doubt during the best-of-seven series. Dropping only one game on their way to a 4-1 series win, the Knights rounded things out with a 9-3 drubbing of their opponents – meaning they’re now tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings for the most goals scored in a Stanley Cup final game.
The Knights’ victory has come as vindication for a team that raised a few eyebrows when it was founded as an expansion franchise in 2017. Though it hosted the first outdoor NHL game in 1991 (a pre-season clash between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers) and has been the setting for the annual pre-season ‘Frozen Fury’ match-up, Vegas’s desert landscapes hardly make it a natural fit for ice hockey.
Its sporting heritage only backs this up. Known for boxing, NASCAR and golf, it’s typically the scene of speed and glamour, not the rough-and-tumble that fuels much of the NHL.
Las Vegas’s sporting star is rising
However, there’s always been a strong interest in ice hockey in the area, something NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed to allude to after the Knights’ victory when he said: “What has happened here has been simply incredible. Not only is Vegas a hockey town, it’s a championship town.”
Indeed, this success hasn’t come out of nowhere. The Knights are that rarity in the NHL: an expansion franchise that had experienced almost immediate success. They made it through to the Stanley Cup play-offs in their first four seasons and got to the finals in 2018 when they were on the receiving end of a 4-1 result, losing by that scoreline to the Washington Capitals.
It was a rough blow for the emerging team back then, but times have changed now, and Vegas is quickly becoming a sporting heartland in the US. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders became the Las Vegas Raiders when they moved to the area in 2020, and it’s looking likely that MLB’s Oakland Athletics will follow suit in the coming years. That move is proving controversial among fans, but it’s passing the necessary barriers and is on its way to completion.
The Super Bowl will be played at the Allegiant Stadium in September and before that Vegas will play host to its first Formula 1 Grand Prix since 1982 when the likes of Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel race in the streets in November.
With new sporting franchises (such as David Beckham’s Inter Miami in the MLS) emerging regularly in the United States, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see further sports finding a happy home in the glitz and glamour of the Vegas strip.
As Bettman said, the Knights’ incredible success has proved that Vegas truly is a hockey town, but it’s done more than that. It’s shown that it’s a true sporting town that’ll only grow as the years go by.