Mark Stone celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, June 13, 2023.
Jeff Speer | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images
The Stanley Cup belongs to Sin City.
The Vegas Golden Knights, in only their sixth season in the NHL, won the league championship on Tuesday night, completing a 4-1 win over the Cinderella Florida Panthers.
Vegas’ rapid rise to the top of hockey has taken the sports world by surprise, but that’s exactly what owner Bill Foley intended when he cut his $500 million expansion fee in 2016..
It’s a remarkable feat for an expansion team in any sport, but especially for an ice hockey team in a desert city that, until recently, served as a desert for professional team sports.
Now, those in Las Vegas have become Golden Knights fans.
“I was in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and T-Mobile Arena was absolutely amazing,” Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorce, told CNBC on Wednesday.
On Golden Knights game days, the MGM property surrounding the team’s home, T-Mobile Arena, is packed with customers. That’s what former MGM CEO Jim Morin envisioned in 2017, when he described his efforts to turn Sin City into a sports city.
It’s more than just hockey, too. Vegas’ success in the NHL also underscores the city’s rapid development into a major player in the sport.
Morin defended the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA, which MGM owned at the time and later sold to Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis in 2021.
Davis apparently bought into the concept of Las Vegas as a sports destination. He moved his football franchise, long a California staple, to the city in 2020. The team’s Allegiant Stadium will welcome its Super Bowl to Vegas for the first time next year.
The Golden Knights have been contenders since their first season. They quickly garnered a fierce fan base as they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018, losing to the Washington Capitals. Between then and this year’s tournament, the Golden Knights have reached the conference finals twice and only missed the playoffs once.
The team often sells out its home games, which attracts locals and tourists alike. The city is black and gold during the hockey season. MGM Resorts The Golden Knights jersey is worn on a replica of the Statue of Liberty outside New York, New York.
The community spirit surrounding an NHL team is felt throughout the city’s sports scene.
“This is an exciting time for our city as we cement our position as one of the best sports and entertainment destinations in the world,” said Herbuckle.
Sandra Douglas Morgan of Las Vegas is now the president of Readers. She told CNBC in a recent interview that her town is poised to capture the imagination of sports fans everywhere, with its entertainment, dining, shopping, and of course, gambling options.
“We’re going to make sure that we continue to provide Las Vegas and our 40 million visitors from around the world with these life-changing experiences,” she said.
Casinos in Vegas also benefit from the city’s inaugural Formula 1 race, which is scheduled for November. Wynn, for example, offers a five-star weekend package priced at $1 million.
While Las Vegas lost out this year to a Major League Soccer expansion team, it looks like the Major League Baseball team is on its way.
The Oakland A’s signed multiple agreements to move the team to the Vegas location. This week, the Nevada Senate approved a bill to raise $380 million in public funds for a professional baseball stadium. The bill now goes to the state assembly.
Rumors and hopes have persisted for years about the potential of an NBA expansion team, although nothing solid has emerged.
For now, though, Las Vegas is deeply fond of the Golden Knights, a pride that forces locals to brave the intimidating strip tourist and traffic to support their team.
And now the Knights are the kings of hockey.