You probably know that I grew up, and still am, a diehard baseball fan. Over the years I would play the game, watch and listen to games, collect and sell baseball cards, study statistics, play fantasy, and of course wager on the games. No other sport has or will come close to matching my passion for baseball.
I didn't grow up with hockey. The game was never on my radar until I went to a New York Rangers game. My friends and I sat in the Green seats that were somewhere in the middle of Madison Square Garden. Back in the day, each level had different color seats. Anyway, the Rangers played the Washington Capitals and I was sold on hockey after just one game. The action and atmosphere at the game were better than any sport.
There was an energy to Rangers hockey games that couldn’t be matched by any other sport. Not even my beloved baseball gave me the same feeling as being at a hockey game. My friends had season tickets in the Blue seats (upper level back then) and I enjoyed many games over the years. My fandom for hockey grew even more when I went away to college in Oswego, NY.
The Division III school had, and still has, one of the better (D3) hockey programs in New York state. Great Laker games were the place to be before hitting the bars in Oswego. We had such a great time at the games and my fandom for hockey grew beyond just being a Rangers fan. There was even more intensity with college hockey games because we were so close to the action.
After one too many lockouts or strikes I gave up on the NHL. I enjoyed international hockey for awhile because the wider rink makes the game more exciting. Unfortunately, not knowing the best players caught up to me and that fell out of my sports fandom. Today, I can only name one player in the NHL.
Enter The Vegas Golden Knights
I know Marc Andre Fleury (MAF for short according to twitter) because he plays for the newest NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights. I was about two feet from MAF the other day when I stopped by the City National Arena for lunch. The Vegas Golden Knights practice at the new arena that's located across the street from my second office, Red Rock Casino.
I spent about 10 minutes standing a few feet behind the glass watching practice. I had a feeling about hockey that hasn’t been around since college. The proximity to the game, the sound of pucks flying around, and the action of players up close is exhilarating. Dudes were skating inches from my face right up to the boards.
Watching an NHL team practice was really fun and it’s reminded me why people love this game. It may not be possible to get this feeling watching a game in the 20,000 arena. However, it might be possible to get the feeling that existed back in the days of watching the Rangers go to the Stanley Cup. In fact, I just got chills watching an old video of Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!
It will take a lot more of this kind of experience to put hockey on my radar again. Being able to watch the game up close for free can only help. The Vegas Golden Knights will practice at City National Arena whenever they’re in town around 10 am. I'll certainly return.
The coaches choose exact times and how long practice will run each day and since the information isn't always the same the practice schedule isn’t online. The team recommends calling the main line at City National Arena at (702) 998-7466 on the day you want to watch practice. Mackenzie River Pizza has a restaurant with an excellent burger that's located between the two rinks. There are seats that look out to the rinks so you can eat, drink, and watch hockey all at the same time.
You should probably check out the sportsbook at Red Rock Casino if you’re making the trip out to Summerlin for practice. It’s one of the best sportsbooks in Las Vegas. It's probably quicker to walk to the casino than drive from the arena.
If you’re a hockey fan but not a fan of the new Vegas Strip, you’ll be happy to hear that The D is the official downtown Las Vegas casino partner of the Vegas Golden Knights. They’ll have special watch parties, fan fests, and other promotions with the team throughout the year. The D even has special hotel/game packages available that can score you tickets to watch a game from right behind the glass.
The first Vegas Golden Knights fan fest is October 3rd outside of The D at the Fremont Street Experience. It's free, open to the public, and will take place from 6-8 pm at the 3rd Street Stage. The Golden Knights mascot will actually be unveiled for the first time at this fan fest.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a Golden Knights fan like I was a Rangers fan. It's been pointed out to me that I'll probably see a game at some point this season. I'm not sure about that, but I'll definitely go to a practice again and chances are good that I’ll end up at The D when there’s a game on.
All of this might add up to becoming a fan of the Golden Knights and hockey after all.