Life in a new major league for an expansion team is often daunting, but for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, it seemed like it was a walk in the park. When the new NHL franchise entered the league in 2018, they were expected to have a tough season. What transpired turned out to be one of the greatest first seasons by an expansion team in North American sports history.
Before the 2017-2018 NHL season got started, it welcomed a new team to its ranks. The Las Vegas Golden Knights had taken unwanted players from other franchises and assembled a team that wasn’t predicted to perform all that well. Vegas’ odds of winning the Stanley Cup were 500-1 before a puck was thrown onto the ice. What would transpire over the following season would blow people’s minds and go against everything the experts had predicted.
The expansion draft
The NHL was hosting its first expansion draft since 2000, and it seemed the rest of the league was out of practice when it came to negotiations. Many teams didn’t want to accept losing a single player, so they created complicated trade deals, which ultimately seemed to backfire. It meant the Golden Knights had a successful expansion draft, even if they did select 13 defensemen.
Before the season kicked off, the Las Vegas Golden Knights then embarked on a tour of the three closest states to help expand its fan base. People wanted to say they had been fans from the beginning, and those first fans were treated to a spectacular debut season.
Finding a togetherness
No one could have predicted a mass shooting in Vegas before the season started, but this helped bring the community together. It was now up to the players to put on a show for those fans who were hurting following the tragedy.
The Golden Knights didn’t stick to the script and kept on winning games throughout the first half of the season. After Christmas, the expansion franchise was top of the Western Conference, and the Golden Knights stayed near the top for the rest of the season.
The Stanley Cup
Despite being unlikely Stanley Cup contestants, the Golden Knights had made it all the way through the playoffs to the biggest game in ice hockey. They were competing for their first Stanley Cup in their inaugural season. Some expansion franchises in other sports are still waiting for their moment in the playoffs despite being around for many years.
From the moment the Golden Knights players took the ice in their first NHL game, they never looked like the so-called weak team they were supposed to be. However, despite performing heroically throughout the year, the Golden Knight suffered their biggest losing streak of the season in the Stanley Cup series. The team lost four games in a row, allowing the Washington Capitals to secure victory, while Vegas fell at the final hurdle.
Despite the obviously disappointing end to the season, in years to come, this first NHL season by the Vegas Knight will be remembered fondly. They beat all expectations to become arguably the greatest expansion franchise in North American major league sports.