Vegas Golden Knights

A brand new NHL franchise expansion team that has come to the ice rink and really has an amazing story that has just begun. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are one of the most compelling stories in sports right now, and for a good reason. In the planning stages for a few years, the team began play in the 2017–18 NHL season, and is a member of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League. The team is owned by Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, a consortium led by Bill Foley. The team plays its home games at T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. Once again the rumors of a Las Vegas expansion team surfaced again in August 2014, pointing to a new indoor arena on the Strip (built as a joint venture between Anschutz Entertainment Group, owners of the Los Angeles Kings, and MGM Resorts International) as the potential home arena, although these rumors were initially denied by the league.

In November 2014, an unconfirmed report stated that the league had selected billionaire businessman Bill Foley and the Maloof family (former owners of the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings, and founders of the Palms Casino Resort) to lead the ownership group for a Las Vegas expansion team. In their first year, the expansion franchise has shown that it can compete with the best teams in hockey, rounding together a roster of players from every team across the league and quickly becoming a force in the NHL. No one could have forecasted just how well this team has done and continues to play like as they advance into the playoffs.

After winning the Pacific Division during the regular 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights already have the best debut season for an expansion franchise in any major sport. And now with a Stanley Cup dream on the visible horizon, Las Vegas is far from ready to settle as they enter the second round of the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks.

Originally, the team came together and turned a ragtag roster into one of the most dynamic teams in the NHL. Almost like the Oakland A’s basketball team in the movie Moneyball, unconventionally, the Las Vegas Golden Knights' roster was initially put together through the expansion draft in June of 2017. It turned out that all 30 NHL teams were allowed to protect one goalie, three defensemen and seven forwards, or one goalie and eight skaters. It was from there, that the Golden Knights would have to build their team. The protections prevented the Golden Knights from immediately nabbing most of the NHL's brightest stars, but the way that the draft was set up did allow for general manager George McPhee and majority owner Bill Foley to make some interesting and remarkably smart selections. And it turned out to be in their favor.

Probably the biggest gift from the draft at the time for the Golden Knights was veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury had won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins during his storied career in Pittsburgh, but suddenly became available in the expansion draft after the team chose to protect his successor Matt Murray instead. By getting this veteran goalie, Fleury proved a stable foundation for the franchise to build upon, starting 46 games for the Golden Knights and going a remarkable 29-13-4. His .927 save percentage was good for sixth in the NHL. But Fleury couldn't do it alone and Las Vegas succeeded across the draft, continued working hard and finding other hidden gems to fill out their roster. William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, picked from the Blue Jackets and Panthers respectively, would both have career years leading the Golden Knights' top line.This was just the foundation of a NHL team that would eventually begin one of the most remarkable runs in the history of hockey.

The team players came into the season knowing they were the underdogs and we not expected to even make to the playoffs, but they had faith in each other. "You know what we had with each guy. You didn't know what it was going to be like to bring everybody together, in the room," said Nate Schmidt, who joined the Golden Knights from the Capitals. "That's what's been the beauty of this team and why we've had so much fun and had so much success."

Even before the preseason started, their roster set and they had just a few months of practice. Confident with each other, the Golden Knights were set to begin their inaugural season, with head coach Gerard Gallant leading the way. That is when the magic started, once they hit the ice, the team started to gel. Just minutes into that home opener, Tomas Nosek scored the Golden Knights' first ever goal on home ice, leading to a load and energetic release from the crowd. That night Las Vegas would go on to win the game 5-2. They were hot on the ice as soon as the season began, starting the year 8-1 and never looking back. Keep in mind, the team didn't have a marquee superstar due to the nature of the expansion draft. That is why winger Pierre-Édouard Bellemare believed that their lack of a top dog was a feature, even a strength, not a bug, of the team's composition.

What made the team excel is that rather than having one scorer carrying the whole load for Las Vegas, the team had four different players contribute with 60 or more points on the season. They believed their success was a team effort in the truest sense of the term. The Golden Knights would finish the season an impressive 29-10-2 in Las Vegas which they were tied for the best home ice advantage in all of the NHL thanks in part to their passionate fans. The success that the Golden Knights found is wholly unprecedented when it comes to expansion teams. Unbelievably, Las Vegas won the Pacific Division and finished with the fifth best record in the NHL.

For the bookies in Vegas, it has been a bitter sweet experience even as their home team. The Golden Knights unexpected season may have been a fans in delight, but bookmakers are sweating as the odds were against them. Sportsbooks in Vegas stand to lose as much as eight figures on payouts of longshot bets should the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup this year. After sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs, the Golden Knights are now attempting to knock out the San Jose Sharks in a best-of-seven series for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. Either way, and whether or not they make it all the way to a Stanley Cup win this year, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have already made history this year as the most successful expansion team in the history of sports. A fairy tale professional sports story that will surely be remember and talked about in sports for years to come as an amazing story of an underdog team going beyond everyone's expectations.