What is particularly annoying is seeing so many stories about how this is bad news for the NHL. The tone is that fans in Vegas will automatically hand their money over to Mark Davis now and not support the NHL, as if the NHL was like the plague. Quite honestly, this is exactly the “loser mentality” insecurity we have come to expect from followers of the NHL for years.
The way I see it, either the NHL is worth supporting or it isn’t. If you think it is, then darn it, it ought to be in a world class entertainment capital like Las Vegas. Otherwise, why should anyone bother to watch this league anywhere — including New York, Chicago, Toronto or Montreal?
If the NHL is a first class, major-league product, it ought to stand on its own merits and be supported in its own right. If that happens, they won’t have to worry about the NFL or UFC fights, or the NCAA, or any other sports league. Besides, 16,000 people have apparently already been roped in to buy season tickets for the Knights, so I doubt those folks will be bailing out any time soon, especially once they see stars like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid coming in there on a regular basis.
Besides, plenty of NHL franchises have gone up against tough NFL competition in their markets, even in non-traditional sunbelt ones. And won.
- Tampa Bay Lightning. A sunbelt city in a football state, up against a popular NFL team in the Buccaneers. But the last time I checked, attendance for the Lightning was outstanding. In fact, the real basket case in that market is not the hockey team, but the baseball team, the Rays.
- St. Louis Blues. A really good example. The NFL Rams came in to town to set up shop in a fancy new domed stadium, and they even won a Super Bowl, but not only did the Blues survive, they outlasted the NFL.
- San Jose Sharks. A good example of how an NHL team can win consistent fan support in one of the most saturated sports markets in North America. The Bay Area was a market where the NHL failed in the Seventies, but a compelling on-ice product combined with one of the best logos in sports went a long way here.
- Los Angeles Kings. If the Golden Knights want the blueprint of how to run a franchise in a sunny, non-traditional market, look no further than the Kings. The deal to acquire Wayne Gretzky put them on the map; moreover, they outlasted two NFL teams that left in the mid-Nineties. Now, the NFL has moved back to LA with two teams, but where are all the stories about the “negative impact to the NHL” in LA? There aren’t any, because after two Stanley Cups, the Kings product stands on its own.
Here is another important fact that everyone overlooks about the Sharks and the Kings: both franchises had to compete in the same market as… the Raiders!
That’s right, the Kings not only survived the LA Raiders years, they outlasted them, and after the Silver and Black moved back to the Bay Area the Sharks did just fine up against the Oakland Raiders, not to mention the 49ers in Santa Clara.
Keep in mind, too, California isn’t considered the biggest hockey area in the world. So if the Kings and Sharks could manage sellout arenas and help drive the Raiders out of the metro area, I’m sure the Golden Knights could find a way to survive at T-Mobile Arena! Heck, it wouldn’t even surprise me if the Knights end up outlasting the Raiders in Las Vegas, too, given this history.
So don’t give me this line of bull about how the NHL’s fate is sealed against the Raiders in Las Vegas. It’s not like the Raiders or even the NFL are so special! Besides, the Raiders will likely charge an absolute fortune for tickets anyway at this multi-billion dollar stadium of theirs, so NHL ticket prices will probably look good by comparison.
NHL fans, it’s time to quit with the self-pity, and show some confidence in the product you support.