LAS VEGAS (AP) The golden and gray-on-black helmets of the Golden Knights are everywhere.
They're on T-shirts and hats worn by shopping malls, on cubs' jerseys, on stuffed animals, on mugs and on car stickers deep in the suburbs. Bars far from the tourist areas of the city show the games on television, and parties have become a regular activity.
The arena rocks as the expansion team that has taken the league by storm appears on its ice. A city that yearned for a big sports franchise really hugged knights.
"It's so much different than on TV, it's a very different experience," said David Santangelo, a resident of Las Vegas who is a season ticket holder and longtime ice hockey fan. "People fall in love with them, so many people I talk to at work say they did not know it was so exciting, people are really starting to learn about it."
Santangelo, wearing Knights' jerseys was among hundreds attending a party on Monday in downtown Las Vegas for Game 3 of the second round of the Knights playoff series against the San Jose Sharks. The Golden Knights have taken a 3-2 lead on Friday night following a 5-3 win over San Jose.
For years, the question was raised as to whether the tourist-driven city with a long history could host big events big league team night after night. Gambling and a relatively small market size have driven important franchises elsewhere. Before the Knights dropped the puck, there were naysayers, though the initial ticket demand was high.
The average game visit in the T-Mobile Arena is now 18,042. Tourists and enthusiastic high rollers have certainly caught games. Tennis greats Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, rapper Lil Jon, poker pro Daniel Negreanu and batsman Bryce Harper started the baseball season. But despite these early predictions, it was regular residents and their children who filled the stands game by play.
The masses are promising good things for the NFL raiders who will move to Sin City in 2020.
The Knights – who won the Stanley Cup at 200: 1 on many sportsbooks before the start of the season – are proud to call themselves Vegas Born. Their success on the ice has certainly impacted visitor numbers, but it could also be related to the city's desperate need for camaraderie at the start of the season.
The Knights' Offensive in October took place just days after the city The deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The team has withdrawn jersey No. 58 during the last regular season home game to honor the victims. A banner with 58 stars was hoisted in the rafters. The names of the victims were also projected onto the ice.
"I think because all players come from different venues and Las Vegas is a melting pot of people from different places, it has simply brought the community together to have their own team," said Fan Angel Ashby born in Vegas team. It is not from elsewhere.
Ashby had opted for the Colorado Avalanche, but the jersey was released when the knights arrived and she and her friends host host-watch parties.
The energy has existed in the arena right from the start but with the following success louder and louder: For the playoffs, the team has expanded the pregame celebrations with a huge knight's helmet, which is lowered from the rafters in front of the Vegas Bank.The Golden Knights enter the ice through the front of the helmet.
Some players throw pucks at their young fans before the game, and some of the children present receive sticks from selected players after each game, and popularity has spread from the T-Mobile Arena to the City National Arena, the team's practice site The Vegas Golden Knights Skating Academy grew to nearly 1,000 from seven weeks after its founding from fewer than 100 children.
Todd Pollock, vice president of ticketing and suites, said he did not expect the level of support the team had experienced in its debut season and wondered what took so long for Las Vegas to get a big franchise. The team had planned a three-day campaign for season ticket packages for next season, but the organization canceled after the first day due to an overwhelming reaction.
"What we see collectively this year, absolutely, positively, I do not think I could have written better than what it is," said Pollock, who works in the same capacity with the Los Angeles Kings and the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL worked.
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