The Las Vegas Golden Knights will begin play in the 2017-18 NHL season, becoming the first professional sports franchise in Las Vegas.
The city couldn’t be more excited.
“We are delighted with the response that we’ve had from our fan base in every way,” Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We’re close to 14,000 season tickets. We have families and small business buying those tickets in small blocks – two to eight tickets. It’s not like a casino or a hotel or shopping mall coming in and buying huge blocks. These are the locals, and every event that we’ve had, all kinds of people are showing up more than we’ve anticipated. So there’s a lot of pride, and we are really delighted to be the first pro team in the market.”
The Golden Knights are still very much in their infancy and are deliberating on a head coach.
“We’d like to have someone, needless to say, that could be with us for a while,” McPhee said. “We’d like to have someone that can really develop a team but develop individuals as well. We’re going to have to do a lot in player development, and the coaching staff is going to have to be a big part of that. But we’d also like the coaches to be the ones who can also lead us to the promised land as well and get us through the development stage into the competitive stage and contending stage and hopefully the championship stage. We’ve identified some people early in the year, we’ve taken our time with it – we want to get the right person. We’ll probably get into mid-to-late April before any decisions are made. It’s a key strategic decision for us, so we’ve put a lot of time in it, we want to get it right, and hopefully that will happen.”
As for the expansion draft, each NHL team can protect eight players, including one goaltender.
“We’ll have a good shot at some decent players,” McPhee said. “I think it’s pretty easy to identify the top seven or eight players on every team. There’s sort of a bubble of three or four guys after that typically that we’re going to be choosing from. When you take the unrestricted free agents out of the mix and the first- and second-year players are exempt, it takes a lot off the table. But there will still be enough there to get a good base and get some real good assets and then build on that base through the entry draft.”
While a Stanley Cup championship isn’t realistic in the first year, that is McPhee’s ultimate goal.
“We’re going to try to be as good as we can be,” he said. “We’re going to try to win. We’re going to expect to put a very competitive club on the ice. We don’t want to be doormats for anyone. We want to establish the right culture. Your culture is very important. We’re going to work hard on that and do the best we can to be a real good team and work at it. One day we’re going to wake up, and it’s going to be a real good team.”