Golden Knights fans revel in 'dream' season, first playoff win
Expansion team blanks Kings in post-season debut
Las Vegas — During their inaugural season the Vegas Golden Knights have embraced first experiences.
They won their first-ever regular season game against the Dallas Stars. They won their first-ever home-opener against the Arizona Coyotes.
This season of firsts has exceeded nearly everyone's expectations – 51 wins, 29 of those at home.
And when it came to their first-ever playoff game in team history, the Golden Knights didn't disappoint.
Shea Theodore's scored the winner 3:23 into the team's historic playoff debut, sending fans into a frenzy, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for the shutout win in the first game of the best-of-seven series against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
Inside what they call "The Fortress," Golden Knights fans stood and cheered relentlessly, wildly waving white towels. The roar when Theodore scored was deafening and they never stopped cheering.
Pre-game hockey party
Many of the fans had spent hours outside the arena taking part in the pre-game party before heading into the arena to cheer on their team.
"My dream. This is my dream come true. I love these guys," season ticket holder Marie Wong said. "No matter what happens we'll be behind our team."
Wong was one of thousands of fans dressed in armour, glitter, face-paint and beads who packed into the square in front of the arena. Under a scorching desert sun, they danced, drank and partied as they counted down to puck drop.
"I believe in them," Wong said. "We needed these guys. We have all the shows but we had no sports."
Vegas against the hockey world
Golden Knights fans have taken this first season personally. They like to recall all the naysayers. "It'll never work," many repeat in the streets and on the Strip. They laugh at that now.
Even before Wednesday night's playoff game, as a part pre-game festivities inside the arena an in-house announcer reminded them, "They said this wouldn't happen. They said we'd be awful."
The crowd booed and jeered in response. Then they went crazy when they showed highlights of the team winning throughout the season.
It's a city where many people have come from different cities but now call Vegas home. And this expansion team of players assembled from other rosters is very relatable to those who live in the transient Sin City.
And this embrace of their new hockey stars is evident in the big bucks they're willing to pay to see them.
The team sold 14,000 season tickets this season. It is the hottest ticket in town. A quick scan over online ticket websites showed the cheapest seat for the first playoff game in Vegas at $160 US, with the highest priced seat going for more than $1,000 US.
The Golden Knights set an attendance record as 18,479 people packed into T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night. Capacity for hockey at the venue is 17,500.
Support for Humboldt in Las Vegas
Despite being in a celebratory mood, many of the Vegas fans had the Humboldt Broncos on their minds at the game.
Erik Foley and Karl Rutledge showed up in golden suits with custom-made T-shirts underneath, honouring those who lost their lives in the horrific team bus crash in Saskatchewan last Friday.
On the front of their green shirts were the words "We are all Humboldt hockey."
"The tragedy in Canada has touched all of us as hockey fans," Foley said. "We wanted to show that this sport is bigger than just one team. We're a hockey community. We support everyone up there and send all our thoughts and prayers."
Foley, who is originally from Indianapolis, moved to Vegas years ago. He said the city can empathize with the loss of those in Saskatchewan because of the mass shooting in Vegas on Oct. 1 last year that killed 58 people.
"We share in tragedy here as well. The horrible shooting. It was tragic but it really brought Vegas together as a family," he said.
Throughout the season, the team has honoured the victims and at the last home game of the year it retired the number 58.
And Rutledge stressed the impact of the Golden Knights on the people of Vegas.
"We've been waiting for a team for a long time," he said. "They always said it wouldn't work. The true fans wanted something to bring us together and look at us now."