On June 22, 2016, the National Hockey League announced that a 31st NHL Franchise would be commissioned and would begin playing the following season. The location for this new franchise?
Sin City. The City of Lights. The Strip. Fabulous Las Vegas.
Little did anybody know that the Vegas Golden Knights would go on to make history, not just in the NHL but in all of North American professional sports.
The Golden Knights broke many records in their fantastic inaugural season:
- February 1, 2018: Golden Knights break the record for most wins in an expansion team’s first season by winning their 34th game of the season.
- February 21: Golden Knights break the record for most points scored in an inaugural season with 84.
- March 26: Golden Knights become the first team to make the playoffs in their first season since the Edmonton Oilers and Hartford Whalers in the 1979-1980 season.
- March 31: Golden Knights become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major sports, and the first NHL team since the 1926-27 New York Rangers to win their division in their first season.
Simply reaching the playoffs and winning the division would have been satisfying enough to players and fans of the new team, but the Golden Knights weren’t done yet. In the First Round, they swept the L.A. Kings in four straight- becoming the first team in NHL history to sweep their first ever playoff series.
The Golden Knights went on to face the San Jose Sharks in the Second Round, where they would knock the Sharks out in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. In the Conference Finals, Vegas faced off against the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets won the first game 4-2, but then the Golden Knights won four straight to win the Western Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, the first expansion team to do so in their first year.
The first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals were played in Las Vegas. Vegas won the first game 6-4, but lost the second game 3-2 to tie the series at 1-1 before the next two games in the nation’s capital. The Capitals dominated both games on their home ice, winning 3-1 in Game 3 and 6-2 in Game 4. The series then returned to Vegas, with Washington up 3-1. The magic came to an end in Game 5, with the Capitals rallying to win the game 4-3 and take home their first ever NHL Championship.
There’s no doubt that Vegas fans were disappointed by the loss, but the team still had a lot to be proud of. They’ll look to repeat their magical Stanley Cup appearance this year, as preseason games began this week. Most of the team from last year will be returning, including veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who signed a $21 million contract extension to keep him in Vegas through 2022. Their other big re-signing was forward William Karlsson, who scored over 40 goals last season.
It’s unlikely that the Golden Knights can recreate the same magic that they did in their first season, but it’s not impossible. Fleury and Karlsson will be the leaders of the team as they seek to win the Pacific Division for the second year in a row. Their biggest test will be facing the fact that most teams in their division made significant moves to improve, while Vegas, who didn’t lose a lot of talent, didn’t gain much new talent either.
Whatever the situation, all eyes will be on the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018-2019 season, as they look to build upon perhaps the most historical season in all of professional hockey.