The Vegas Golden Knights are following a script unlike any in the history of expansion franchises in the major sports. The NHL’s newest franchise and the first major sports team ever to call Las Vegas home is, in the way its city does, doing things big. Really big.
Historically big, in fact.
The team’s 7-1 start to the season is unprecedented among expansion franchises in the major sports. Compare it to some of these numbers:
Nashville Predators (1998, NHL) – The Preds now are a year-in, year-out, contender. But in their first season, they managed just a 1-6-1 mark in the first seven games.
San Jose Sharks (1991, NHL) – The Sharks were exactly the opposite of the Golden Knights in their first eight contests – seven losses, one win, and several lopsided results. However, they found their way to the playoffs in just their third year, losing in the second round.
Miami Heat (1988, NBA) – The Heat’s first season in the league started not only with eight straight losses but in fact a league record 17 in a row before their first win nearly two months into the season. Miami finished 15-67.
Colorado Rockies (1993, MLB) – The Rockies actually started the season 2-5 and wound up with 67 total wins, 37 games out of first place. Like the Sharks, though, they first made the playoffs just two years later.
Dallas Cowboys (1960, NFL) – In their first year in the NFL, the Cowboys managed only one tie against 11 losses in the 12-game campaign. It would be five more years before they finished .500 in a season.
A playoff run seems almost likely at this point for Vegas, although with more than 90 percent of the season remaining that’s a little premature to predict yet. Still, what’s happening so far seems to be far more than a fluke.
Lifting a City
Perhaps above anything the Golden Knights are doing on the ice is how uplifting the efforts have been as people cope with life off the ice.
The horrible tragedy of October 1, when a mass shooting killed 59 and injured hundreds more, rocked the country and the world. But it hit closest to home in Vegas, a city known for a carefree atmosphere that suddenly had terrible things to care about and deal with.
No, a hockey team winning a few games doesn’t fix everything or bring people back to life, but it can be an inspiration, a diversion, even a focus point for those trying to get any semblance of “back to normal.”
“We will do everything we can to help you and our city heal,” Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland told the crowd that night.
So far, the team is making a lot of waves.
Against the Odds
The Golden Knights aren’t just seeing every break go their way or a bunch of lucky bounces to get to this point. If anything, it’s been the opposite.
Their star goaltender, longtime Pittsburgh Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury, was injured just days into the season. He’s been recovering from a concussion since, although he is due back soon. The team since has also lost his backup, Malcolm Subban, leaving the goaltending duties for the moment in the hands of two untried talents – Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk.
And yet, through it all, they keep winning. Perhaps no win was more exciting than on Oct. 22, when the Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime against Western Conference power St. Louis. William Karlsson’s game winner sent the partisan crowd into hysterics, a scene that’s becoming increasingly familiar for a team that is making immediate waves in its NHL history.