The Vegas Golden Knight Experience Through the Eyes of a Rangers Fan: Hockey The Way It’s Supposed To Be, The T-Mobile Arena Is a Full Bars Experience, Vegas Embracing Hockey, How The Golden Knights Are Doing Everything Right, Rangers Busting Like a Degenerate at a Cold Blackjack Table & Much More, with Pictures, From Las Vegas

Even on a Sunday night in busy Las Vegas, hockey fans filled every seat in the arena.

What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. This blog will be different than the usual blog on the site, as I’m not going to fully recap the Rangers/Golden Knights game as I normally would. Instead, I’m going to talk about the Las Vegas Golden Knights experience at the T-Mobile Arena.

I am starting this blog on Tuesday, 1/9, 48+ hours after the Rangers lost, 2-1, to the expansion Golden Knights. Take that for what it’s worth. It took me this long to recover and to sit down and hammer this blog out! While the game result wasn’t what I wanted, and it cost me some moolah, I had a blast in Vegas.

What looked like perhaps an easy win, when the schedule was first announced, was anything but. If you thought in the Summer of 2017, that the Vegas Golden Knights would be one of the best teams in the league and playing in front of one of the most loyal crowds in the NHL, I wouldn’t have believed you. While Vegas has a ton of sports books, not one casino was taking action on the success of the Vegas franchise. Not even the most astute bookie or gambler could’ve seen this coming.

During my five night trip in Vegas, I encountered many different people. Most people were tourists, like me, on vacation. Some were also in town, just for the Rangers game. As I moved along in my travels, I ran into the transplant, who usually was a wide-eyed dreamer, looking to chase easy money in the casinos. While those people laughed at tourists, akin to New Yorkers laughing at tourists, I felt sad for many of them. With each conversation I had with these “I can make a few thousand playing poker every night” people, (despite playing at $1/$2 table) I wondered where they’d be in five years. NO ONE ever wins in a casino 100% of the time.

I also ran into long time Vegas residents. These were the people I was most interested in talking to, because they knew the area. They live it. I really wanted to get the perspective and the opinion, about the inception of the Vegas Golden Knights, from a true blue Las Vegas resident. After talking to these people as well, my suspicions were confirmed – nobody saw this coming.

While I heard the new arenas in Detroit and Edmonton are really nice, the arena in Las Vegas will blow your balls off faster than Joe Micheletti saying “that was deflected by Lundqvist.”

From talking to a wide-range of people, whether being long-time residents, transplants, employees on the Strip, retirees living on a budget, bartenders who meet people from all walks of life, the people at the sport books, employees at the T-Mobile arena or even Las Vegas Golden Knights season ticket holders themselves, no one saw the team being the hit that it has quickly become. I’m not talking about the win-loss record here either. I am talking about the financial success the team has enjoyed, as they’ve been playing in front of sold out crowds every game.

On a side-bar, maybe the loser Islanders can take some notes? After all, the Islanders are in LAST PLACE, when it comes to league attendance. The Knights are right there at the top. To boot, what makes the Islanders look really SAD, is that Vegas Golden Knights tickets are much more expensive.

When Las Vegas was given an NHL team, I know I wasn’t the only one who was skeptical. As an NHL fan, this was great, because it gave me an excuse to visit Las Vegas. However, thinking in terms of dollars and cents, I figured the casinos would buy all the seats and give the ducats away, akin to the common comedy or burlesque show. Instead, even the casinos can’t get their hands on blocks of tickets, as the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the hottest ticket in town.

While Brittney Spears, Jerry Seinfeld, Elton John, Celine Dion, and many other top names receive top billing all over Vegas, it is the hockey team selling out, game-after-game, performance-after-performance. The bad jokes about johns bringing their hookers to games and leaving during the third period, were just that, bad jokes. Instead, the arena is full. Even better – not one suit in the arena.

Here I am with the mastermind of the amazing “Bar Rescue”, Jon Taffer. He’s a NY transplant and a VGK season ticket holder.

There’s so much success and positive energy throughout the T-Mobile arena during a VGK game. One thing that really stood out to me was EVERY SEAT WAS FULL DURING THE ENTIRE GAME. Unlike the Wall Street shit-show MSG has turned into, the VGK played in front of a loud crowd. It made me feel like I was at a playoff game. I truly forgot what a hockey game SHOULD feel like, after being desensitized from the morgue on 33rd street.

I didn’t see sushi being delicately eaten in the crowd. I didn’t see people waiting 30 minutes, during the game, for a Banana-Coconut Water-Kale Flambe. There were no suits. There were no ties. There were no umbrella drinks. Replacing all the bougiasness and hoity-toity bullshit was BUDWEISER beer, burgers and jerseys. Even the celebrities, (Jon Taffer was the biggest celebrity I spotted, as he was sitting a few rows from me) were decked out in VGK regalia.

If you looked at the best seats in the house, which were the first few rows by center ice, those seats were occupied by people wearing VGK merchandise, with a simple beer or hotdog in their hand. Who would’ve thought, that Las Vegas, of all places, would bring hockey back to its roots?

I know that as humans, we all get nostalgic and tend to remember things differently through our childhood eyes. However, when I was in the arena for this VGK vs NYR game, I felt like I was at my first playoff game all over again. (NYR vs Quebec, 1995, Steve Larmer OT GWG.) The place was rocking and the crowd never died down, even when the Rangers scored. It’s sad, that as a New Yorker, and with three teams located within 20 miles of me, that I had to fly across the country to recapture the feeling of my youth. This game experience made me forget about all the kvetching I do about the Rangers at the Garden, in today’s times.

I wanted to experience inside the T-Mobile Arena more, so I blew off the outdoor festivities. However, before the game, (footage was shown on the scoreboard) VGK throws a huge pre-game bash, complete with showgirls decked out in Vegas Knights attire. There’s also a marching Roman band, someone dressed like Caeser and everything else imaginable. These mascots and gimmicks really brought some electricity into an arena that was already over voltage.

When this game was first announced and tickets were put on sale, me and my buddy, “Borgata Ray”, picked up tickets immediately. I felt we overspent, spending $300 bucks, to sit center ice, row X, which is the equivalent of the 24th row and last row in the lower bowl. I thought we might’ve got a better deal doing the Stubhub trick, but to us, since we were flying cross country, I wanted to have good tickets and I wanted to guarantee that I would have my ass in the arena.

Needless to say, I was blown away, that 24 hours before the game, only 200 tickets remained, and ticket prices were sky high. Three hours before the game, only 48 tickets remained on Stubhub, and the prices were still high. This was the complete opposite of MSG, as hundreds of tickets, vastly discounted, can be had on Stubhub, right before game time.  As I’d hear during my trip and see confirmed in front of my eyes, the Vegas Golden Knights are the hottest ticket in town.

Going into this game, from the day the tickets went on sale, I felt that this would be a Rangers home game, akin to the Rangers playing at Barclays, the Rock, Amalie or BB&T. While there were many Ranger fans there, the Vegas Golden Knight fans weren’t phased and brought more energy and fervor than the Ranger fans. I couldn’t give you an exact ratio of fans, as it could’ve been anywhere from 60/40 NYR to VGK or 40/60 NYR to VGK fans. Both fanbases were well represented, but the VGK fans had just a little more pep in their step. With the play on the ice, they had every reason.

To be clear, I’m not discounting all the loyal Ranger fans who made the trip. There were a ton of us there.  I just think many of them, like me, were shocked about how loud a home fan base could be. That’s what these recent years at MSG have done to people! Even more impressive, these home fans wouldn’t just roll over and die. “ZUUUCCCCCC” chants were met with boos from the Vegas fans. Cheering after the Zibanejad goal was immediately followed by the vocal displeasure of the people in the gray jerseys. These Vegas fans would not give up their home edge, as I’ve seen in other NHL arenas.

The Vegas marketing department made the right decision to feature Oscar Lindberg on the FREE program that was given to every fan. Unfortunately, he was scratched from the game.

If you follow the VGK on twitter, you know that they have one of the most entertaining team accounts in all of sports. Matching that intensity is the arena itself. There were many funny clips to hype up the crowd during the game. The crowd even has created traditions for each game. Akin to Ranger fans chanting “LET’S GO RANGERS”, during the pauses in the National Anthem, Vegas fans scream “NIGHT” during “Gave proof through the NIGHT, that our flag was still there.” There were also other things, throughout the NIGHT, that the Vegas fans did. In a short time, they’ve really made this arena one of the stronger hometown advantages in the league.

Borgata Ray and I, on Freemont Street.

If you don’t know already, I’m a big guy, at 260 pounds. My friend, Borgata Ray, is no featherweight himself. While Ray is one of my closest friends and I attend a lot of hockey games with him, I hate sitting next to him, because he’s a fat bastard, with his legs and guts usually spilling into my seat. However, in the T-Mobile Arena, our two fat asses were easily allowed to “man-spread” and we didn’t make leg-to-leg contact all game. While I didn’t have a tape measure with me, it’s easy for me to confirm, that the seats in the T-Mobile Arena, are the widest I’ve ever sat in for a hockey game.

This is not only a plus for the beer bellied and foodies alike, it’s a plus for the people who like to eat and have a beer (or 10) at a game. When I go to road games, I usually buy mementos and shit, to remember my trips by. Here’s what I bought in Vegas:

Sorry, Barclays puck, you’ve been kicked out of my 48 puck case for this puck!

Maybe my nieces can get some money for this, long after I’m dead!

For someone like me, a triple threat in a seat, meaning overweight, buying merch and buying beer, the extra space in a seat was very much appreciated. I was comfortable the whole game. I had plenty of room for my shit, my beer and to prevent my nutsack from being crushed. I’m sure the bigger people who read this blog, and may have attended this game, also appreciated the same luxury.

It’s funny too – because before the game, I took the aisle seat from Ray, just to get him upset. (Every game we go to, he gets the aisle seat, since he’s twice my size.) Deep down, I knew I’d have to take the seat in the middle and accepted that fact. I just couldn’t believe how comfortable I was in my seat. The Bell Center in Montreal can suck it, when it comes to this department!

The Vegas Golden Knights announced their biggest crowd of the season for this game, which was aided due to the copious amounts of Ranger fans at the game. I’d later find out, from an usher, originally from Valley Stream, NY of all places (I live in the town over) that all games are like this, with the exception of a few.

While it was known that the T-Mobile arena would be a destination trip for road team fans, no one expected the town to love and embrace them as fast as they did. However, one can not overlook how successful the VGK team has been, as they are currently in first place in the Western Conference.

We will see a 32nd NHL franchise in our lifetime. Whether it’s 3 years, 5 years or 10 years down the road, the league will eventually even out and give us four divisions of eight teams. It’s already rumored that the asking price for a Seattle franchise is $750M, which is 50% more than the $500M fee that Vegas recently posted.

Gary Bettman has been completely aloof and quite frankly, a jackass and the worst commissioner in sports history during his tenure. He could cure cancer, aids and poverty, but at the end of the day, he has three lockouts on his resume, with one of them featuring the only sports league to completely shut down for a season. If there is “hit” on his resume, for now, it’s the VGK.

The VGK had tragedy to start their season, due to the mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay. The community and VGK have rallied together to raise funds. The team even sells $5 #VEGASSTRONG T-Shirts, with money going to victims. Featured here, is Officer Levi Hancock, one of the first officers to respond to the shooting.

The VGK should be the blueprint for future expansion teams. Instead of purposely making them crappy, it’s good for business if the team can compete. Of course, the city of Las Vegas is like no other, so this is a unique situation to say the least.

I get the argument that fans should have to suffer and grow with a team. However, business wise, Vegas has been a hit. When the NHL finally does get their 32nd team, they would be stupid not to emulate the same expansion draft rules that VGK had. Sure, everything has fell in place for VGK and they are having “Disney on Ice” season. However, teams like Columbus or Nashville or going further back, teams like Tampa or Ottawa and again, to even go further back, a team like the Washington Capitals, all must be jealous about the inaugural season success that Vegas is experiencing.

While everything in the T-Mobile Arena is emitting a feeling of a jack-pot high, the true test will be when the team stinks and “VIVA LOSS VEGAS” is on the back pages. Will the fans still support a bad team? Will the arena be packed when the team only has four cups in 90+ years? How long can this love affair last? Only time will answer these questions.

Maybe the Rangers can win the Cup and help recover some of my losses?

For an arena that’s barely half an NHL season old, the place feels like its been a long time stalwart in the league. You’d never figure this game, in particular, was an “Original 31” match-up. I’ve seen deader crowds, during my multiple trips to the hockey-centric Montreal, to see the Rangers.

The place was lively throughout the game and the fans seemed to know what was going on, except for one guy behind me, in the tables section, whose buddy had to explain to him what an icing was, what offside was, why were the Rangers were pulling their goalie, etc. However, I’m not one of those snobby types who hate on those people. To me, it’s a person that wants to learn the game and taking it in. That person is trying to be invested and obviously cares about what he/she is watching, which is why they are asking questions in the first place.

The fact of the matter is this – You’re gonna have hockey newbies in a new market. I hate the elitist tone you find from some hockey fans, when it comes to new fans. How is the league supposed to grow if you don’t educate? These Vegas residents, wishing to learn the game, are the people the VGK want. It’s also great for the sport, any way you slice it.

I know I said this before in this blog, but I was just impressed with the sheer amount of jerseys in the crowd. Even the guy behind me, who didn’t know a slap shot from a hat trick, was wearing a VGK jersey and hat. He wants to learn and be part of it all. I’m sure he isn’t the only Vegas resident with the same sentiment.

And since who doesn’t like kicking the Islanders, it’s amazing that you have a bonafide hockey arena in the desert, filled with passionate fans. You don’t get that in Brooklyn. Take note Islander fans – the scoreboard hangs over the center of the ice!

Ondrej The Giant had a good game, but the team in front of him, like the night before, did not.

The only negative thing I have to say about the T-Mobile Arena is their beer selection. I’ve been to over 15 NHL arenas in my time (That includes closed ones) and every single one of them carries or carried either Molson or Labatt Blue beer. For some reason, for a city that can give you anything you’ve ever wanted, you couldn’t find a maple leaf on a beer bottle anywhere.

In these times where I can’t a Molson or Labatt, I usually go with a Miller Light for the great drinkability or a Heineken. Those brands weren’t carried either. Instead, the place is Budweiser products only. For me, I hate Bud Light and I find Budweiser to give me the worst beer gas possible. This is beer drinking nit-picking, but since beer drinking is a staple in my every day life, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you’re a slave to the Budweiser clydesdale at the T-Mobile Arena.

As far as the game itself, for the Rangers, it felt like a toned down version of the game before, with Arizona. In fact, you can read about that Arizona game and the last few Ranger games, by checking out these links below:

NYR/ARI 1/6 Review: Super Sunday Sized Edition! Lundqvist Carries NYR To Victory; Tames Desert Dogs, NYR Nears The Break, Chris Kreider Possibly Done For The Season, Be Fair to Duclair, ANDERSSON 3:16 Says Eff Your Silver, Trade Rumors, JT Miller is Donzo, Rick Nash, Pretending that NYR are Sellers, The Fake News NYR Media (Hello Hartnett), My Vegas Trip Thus Far & Much More


NYR/BUF 1/1 WINTER CLASSIC Review: JT Miller Turns Citifield into Miller’s Park; Rangers Get The Much Needed Two Points, Ranger Fans Brave Extreme Temperatures, “Pond Hockey”, Grabner For the All-Star Game, AV Wacks Lettieri, The Lundqvist Love Affair, NBC & NHL Drops The Ball in the Ballpark & Much More from a Visual & Gimmick Spectacular


NYR/DET 12/29 Review: Rangers Come Up Short, Lose a Game Reminiscent of the Dead Wings Era, Vinni Lettieri Shines in NHL Debut, Lundqvist, Arniel & Futile PP Costs NYR Another Point, The Insufferable Joe Micheletti, Chris Kreider’s Health, The WC, & Much More From a Preseason-ish Feeling Game


NYR/WSH 12/27 Review: King Ondrej The Giant Shuts Out The Capitals With a Monumental Performance; Rangers Keep Pace in the Division, The Excruciating NBC Broadcast, Kreider Rumors, The Blueballed Blueshirt Rick Nash, AV’s Decisions Pay Off Again, Fire Arniel & More From an Exciting Victory


NYR/TOR 12/23 Review: Rangers Head To The X-Mas Break With a Lump of Coal in Their Stockings; Can’t Figure Out the Leafs For the Second Time This Season, Power Play Remains Atrocious, AV, Shattenkirk Calls Out Lundqvist, Fire Arniel ASAP, Hank Antics, My X-Mas Thank You & More


I love walking into an arena, and feeling that cool & clean ice. Perfect drinking conditions!

I’m not here to recap a game from over two days ago, but as I said in the Arizona blog, everyone is doing the doom and gloom bullshit because the Rangers lost. Everyone also wants AV fired, because he scratched new fan favorite Pavel Buchnevich. In addition, Brendan Smith was scratched for Steve Kampfer. It seems Kampfer plays more when Lundqvist is the back-up. Hmmmm.

What I found funny, is these same people, screaming for AV’s job, ignored the following:

  • The Rangers played the best team in the Western Conference.
  • AV is with this team every day and knows the team better than you.
  • AV is one of the top 5 coach’s in NY Ranger history, despite his short tenure.
  • The Rangers were coming off a back-to-back, a trip already marred by travel issues, due to the snowstorm in NY.
  • Zuccarello was rebounding from an illness.
  • Kreider is still out and will be out for at least 6 more weeks, as he recovers from his successful surgery.
  • Kevin Hayes didn’t play in the final forty minutes, meaning the Rangers were down a forward.
  • Henrik Lundqvist, and not AV, announced he wouldn’t play this game, as he chose taking the easier game of the back-to-back, against crappy Arizona.
  • Scott Arniel’s PP still sucks, but he’s given a pass.
  • Rick Nash can’t score and is given a pass.
  • Every team struggles at points in a season.
  • This Rangers team is not Cup bound, although we can all hope for it.

Listen, it sucks the Rangers lost and that they are continuing to play bad. At times in this game, it looked like a fucking track meet, as Vegas got odd man rush after odd man rush. KING PAVELEC was a stud all game, but the Rangers failed him. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s one game, of a long schedule.

Granted, when the schedule was announced, you’d figure the Rangers would get two points, before their bye week, against this Vegas expansion team. However, a loss doesn’t change the course of the season. The Rangers are still a playoff team. As I said in the Arizona blog (And really, go back and read that blog if you missed it, as I broke the team down in-depth there) there’s plenty of hockey left and plenty of time to make changes. However, if you can’t admit that every team, besides maybe Tampa, is faulted and anyone has a shot, then you are delusional. In the NHL playoffs, anything can happen, and for the Rangers, that’s all they got – a shot.

In my five nights in Vegas, I lost a $1000 gambling, saw the Rangers lose, slept only 3 hours a night, had bad gas, but outside of meeting Jon Taffer, the highlight of my trip was a buffer seat on the 5 hour flight home!

The good time era in Las Vegas will last throughout the remainder of the season. Of course, we all know about the “Las Vegas Flu”, as teams are thrown off by being in Vegas for the first time. As time moves along, and teams get used to Vegas as a regular NHL city on an 82 game schedule, Vegas will lose some of their hometown edge.

For right now, if you can get to a VGK game, it’s one hell of an experience. I hope this experience continues even when the team goes flat. I’m also interested to see what happens when the Oakland Raiders come to town. Will that hurt the hockey team or will it turn the town into a major sports hub? I’ll tell you what, if the schedule makers were smart, I’d book the Knights home games around Raider home games and book the same market road team.

If you’re a hockey and football fan, tell me you wouldn’t sign up for this: your favorite hockey team against VGK on either a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday or Tuesday night and your favorite football team against the Raiders on Sunday? If the Rangers & Giants are both in Vegas, at the same time, I’m in.

When I sold my wrestling business five years ago, and started regularly attending hockey games again, I was reminded of why the NHL is the best live ticket experience in all of sports. While MSG is nothing like the days of my youth or even my teenage years, it has even drastically changed in just a five year span. For Vegas fans, they have an arena and a fanbase that any one can get behind, unless, that is of course, you’re a fan of a Pacific division team.

Quick side-bar before closing: imagine if you’re a Coyotes fan? Your team sucks. Your team is bankrupt. Now, there is an extra team in your division and they are in first place. Make no bones about it, the Coyotes are the team effected the most, standings wise and perception wise, by the success of VGK.

In a rare night for me, the jadedness wore off. The Lundqvist crap was forgotten. The anger at seeing suits was eroded. The Micheletti jokes were shelved. The people going up and down the aisles during play was a memory of long ago. Instead, I was a kid again and enjoyed the best game in sports, the way you’re supposed to.

Congratulations Las Vegas, you are a player in this league. Thank you for the great time.

Up next, the Mid-Season New York Rangers Report Card blog, which will be posted this Friday. After that, it’s back to game reviews, and it won’t be easy for NYR. I’ll get into that in the Mid-Season Report Card.

As always, thanks for reading and….

“Let’s Go Rangers!”

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the tweeter gimmick

Comments

  1. This was reposted to a VGK page.
    Thanks for writing! Well written, fun to read. Im a long term hockey lover, can hardly believe Vegas first pro team ever is a NHL team. All in here! Season tickets for years obtained. Hey, with you on the Budweiser thing. Next time your at T Mobile, try a Kilt Lifter, you gotta stand in line at Pinks to get one, but they are delicious.

  2. One thing that bugs locals is the Budweiser/Pepsi thing. Every venue seems to be a monopoly for them in Vegas. Vegas has been a hockey most of my adult life. We loved our Thunder and our Wranglers. Felt robbed when their owners closed shop. Sad regular Joe’s can’t afford ticket. Might see one game. 3 a month at the Wranglers.

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