“We built a love affair with Vegas, but we also built a winning organization” – Marchessault

“We built a love affair with Vegas, but we also built a winning organization” - Marchessault


LAS VEGAS | The Golden Knights are part of the landscape in Vice City. On the famous Strip, the knight's logo finds its place in this decor where the huge hotels house casinos and halls to receive the many shows of Cirque du Soleil, the British singer Adele and soon the master of country, Garth Brooks . 

On the eve of the Canadian's visit to the T-Mobile Arena, the UFC 285 gala was presented there where Jon Jones became the king of heavyweights and where the Quebecer Marc- André Barriault won his fight at middleweight. On the same day, there was a NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It's a bit like Vegas. It is excess and madness. It never stops in this town.

But the Golden Knights have found their place in the Nevada desert. They are already in their sixth season. Of the original team, six players remain: Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, William Carrier and Brayden McNabb.

“We built a love affair with Vegas, but we also built a winning organization,” Marchessault said with a smile on his face after a Knights practice in Summerlin, a suburb of Vegas.

“It's a crazy story,” added Theodore. We have built a great hockey culture in a place that was not thought to be conducive to this sport. I like to think that we helped build this adventure by getting very involved in the community. »

Impossible to imagine

Before the Golden Knights were born in 2017-18, there were doubts about the team's long-term popularity in Vegas. Gary Bettman had bet on becoming the first professional league in North America to settle there. A bet he does not regret today. 

“No, I couldn't imagine that. At first, we thought we would have a hard time winning ten games for our first season, recalled Marchessault. But we surprised everyone. We looked at the formation of the other team and our team and we thought that we were a bunch of strangers. There were Marc-André Fleury, James Neal and David Perron as big names. We were nothing, but we wanted to win.

“We didn't have high expectations for the first year,” added Karlsson. We did not live a normal path with a final from year one. We are no longer the Cinderella team. But the Kraken also have a strong team in only their second season in the NHL. »

A strong bond

In another corner of the sublime training center locker room, McNabb goes back in time to explain this love affair between the team and Vegas.

“Like everyone else, I couldn't imagine such a great story,” said the Saskatchewan native defender. There was a very sad event before the first game in team history with the killing (October 1, 2017). I have a hard time explaining it, but we came together in sadness. We discovered the atmosphere of a game in Vegas. I'm talking about it again today and I still have chills. There was so much emotion, but also tears because of the shooting that left 59 people dead.

“Today I can say without a doubt that Vegas is a hockey market,” McNabb continued. Young people have embarked and there is great growth. We also have our American League team, the Silver Knights, in Henderson, a town about 30 minutes from Vegas.

In Marchessault's eyes, the Golden Knights also have an undeniable advantage in their game.

“Yes, we traded several first-round picks. But when I think about it, I always tell myself that we are fortunate as a market to be one of the most beautiful destinations for free agent players. Vegas is easily in the top five most attractive cities. I would say with Tampa, Florida, Dallas and Nashville. We are talking about five cities where taxes are advantageous, the weather is mild and good organizations. »