“Hottest Day of the Year-Ice Cool Time in Hockey”
It’s the first day in the life of the NHL’s newest expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights…and it will likely be hotter than hell in the Nevada desert as they put together the team that will play on the new ice at the T-Mobile Center.
118-degrees in Las Vegas, but that’s not hot if you consider 120 in Palm Springs and fears of 121 in Phoenix.
This will be the 12th time the NHL has expanded, remembering they began life as the ‘Original Six’.
They shocked the world in 1967 by adding 6-expansion teams, the birth of the LA Kings, Minnesota North Stars, the Flyers-Penguins and more. Owner Jack Kent Cooke arrived in LA and hockey boomed in its home state Minnesota.
In 1970-hockey hotbeds Vancouver and Buffalo came on board, that brought us the French Connection to the Niagra Frontier.
In 1972, the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Flames joined, an Atlanta team that later would gives us Olympic goalie Jim Craig.
The 1974 expansion was a disgrace, with a woeful Washington Capitals team that would go (8-67-5) and a Kansas City Scouts team that would go bankrupt.
In 1979, the holy war with the rival World Hockey Association ended, and Edmonton-Winnipeg-Quebec and Hartford paid a steep price to get in, and were allowed to protect just 4-players. The Oilers would become dominant in the Great Gretzky era. Quebec and Hartford wound up moving, and sadly so did Winnipeg.
What followed were trips to the Sun Belt. Here came the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning in 1991-92-93.
Hockey Tonk Nashville arrived in 1998, and we know where they were just weeks ago in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild were part of the last go-round in 2000.
Hockey history will tell us legendary Red Wings Goalie Terry Sawchuck was the first pick of the LA Kings, headed to the last years of his career.
The Mighty Ducks top pick was goalie Guy Hebert, who was credible for years in the net at the Pond.
Oh there were bad teams. Washington went (1-39) in its first year, and their captain, defenseman Yvon Labre had all time worst (-60) plus minus rating for the year.
Winnipeg, in the post Bobby Hull-WHA era, won just 9-games its maiden season, that included a 30-game winless streak.
Ottawa, an early 1900s hockey success and cup winner, suffered thru a 10-win season that first year back in the Dominion’s capital.
The Kansas City Scouts went bankrupt and became the New Jersey Devils.
The history of the NHL has also been about money grabs. Make these teams pay lots of money to get in, then give them scraps for their roster.
Anybody remember the Flyers getting Bernie Parent, who would be the foundation of the great teams there? Picks like that were few and far between. .
They’ve forgotten the top pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets was goalie Rick Tabaracchi, here today-gone tomorrow.
But tonight at 5pm, the NHL will unveil the roster of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights.
They really changed the rules for the dudes in the desert. They gave them a 72-hour advance window to sign the myriad of free agents, who hit the open market next week.
They allowed NHL teams a limited number of protected players, 8-skaters and a goalie, or a 7-3-1 combo. Thus the arrival of Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury.
They’ve given the Golden Knights the freedom to work out pre-draft trades, with reports GM-George McPhee has made at least 8-deals so far, bypassing some players in the pool, to take on future picks and additional players.
Vegas was allowed to go into Europe and sign free agents early, and the same with NCAA free agents.
They sold 14,000-season tickets. They will play in a shiny new arena and be the only team in town for at least 3-years till the Raiders get there with the NFL brand.
So today will be different than the last two decades of NHL-expansion. The oldtimers will tell you about the amazing arrival of the 6-expansion teams in the 1960s, and how good some of them became. NHL people think this franchise will be good quicker than later. You hope so for a 500M-expansion fee. .
This should top that, though it is a surprise, hockey in the Silver State. But then look again what happened in Orange County (Ducks), in Dixie (Predators) and other places.
Sure the NHL should be in Quebec City. Maybe they mishandled the entire Hamilton, Ontario situation because of territorial issues and old time politics.. They next, will be casting a glance towards Seattle too, a vibrant hockey history market.
But today, it’s about the coolest thing in sports, NHL hockey, on ice, on the hottest days of the year.