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Golden Knights Establish Early Franchise Tradition On #VGKRoadTrip

Despite being a new team without history, Vegas returned from the Rockies with perhaps its first team tradition in place

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

There's a bit of duality to it.

Las Vegas. The Strip. Bright lights. Large crowds.

The desert, scorching summer heat and bustling epicenters that are packed with visitors, from nearby and afar, every day of the year.

The mountains.

The mountains of Idaho. Of Montana. Of Wyoming and Utah.

Often quiet places. Secluded places.

For perspective, most of the tiny towns in these places each have fewer inhabitants than can fit in Caesars Palace.

Yet these places have a sense of community. They're interwoven with crystal-clear rivers and evergreens, soaring mountains and prairies that stretch as far as the eye can see. People here are proud of who they are.

Big Sky Country they call it, although the communities themselves are small enough that nearly everybody knows everybody.

Video: Pickard mingles with fans in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

 

When we were in Whitefish, Montana on Wednesday night, senior vice president Murray Craven, a local resident since 2000, said he knew almost every one of the couple hundred people in the building.

RELATED: #VGKRoadTrip, running blog

On the surface, these places don't seem to have much in common with Las Vegas.

Except throughout this week, as the #VGKRoadTrip toured through all of the states encompassed in the team's TV partnership with AT&T SportsNet, there were quite a few Golden Knights logos on shirts and hats spotted.

Yes, there were other logos, too. There were some Avalanche. We saw a few Red Wings shirts. And Calgary Flames. And Boston Bruins. And one kid, at our Tuesday stop in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in a Tampa Bay Lightning cap, accompanied by a Golden Knights t-shirt.

So no, these places aren't quite Vegas, nor are they entirely Golden Knights country at this point. Although what they do have is a strong sense of community and a love of sports, despite the absence of a local major league pro franchise to call their own, that's been yearning to find a team to unify behind.

 

Video: Murray Craven chats about the Golden Knights

 

Part of this sounds familiar, doesn't it?

An area of the country that loves sports, but doesn't quite have a team of its own?

Wants a team to support, but has just never had one.

Kind of like Las Vegas.

Right?

It's not only this.

On the #VGKRoadTrip, we noticed a theme where kids and adults have come from hundreds of miles around, just for the chance to see our team roll through town.

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Lanny McDonald, the 64-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer, brought his grandkids from about 40 miles away to skate with Alex Tuch and Jake Bischoff in Whitefish.

"I think it's absolutely fabulous," McDonald told us in Whitefish, Montana on Wednesday. "This will pay dividends down the road.

And obviously, doing things like this in this neck of the woods, there's going to be this whole northwest corner cheering for Vegas. "

On Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene, we also met 14-year-old Clayton Yates.

 

 

Yates, a Calgary native, was on vacation with his family in Coeur d'Alene when he saw one of our team's Instagram posts about arriving in town.

Yates then quickly summoned his parents, and the family was off to the Frontier Ice Arena to meet Golden Knights goalie Calvin Pickard.

Moments later, Yates and Pickard were bumping fists. And presto, Yates was a Golden Knights fan.

RELATED: What did ESPN say about the #VGKRoadTrip

"I got a picture with him and got a fist bump," Yates said. It's crazy how it all came about. It's very cool to get to come here and meet Pickard and do all these interviews."

"Now I'm a Golden Knights fan because that way I can say I've been a fan since Day 1."

 

Video: The #VGKRoadTrip visits the Ice Barn in Bozeman

 

As this week closes, scenes like this seemed to be a common theme from the #VGKRoadTrip.

That no, the towns in this part of the world aren't very big, nor do they have many people.

But as an entirety, this region of the country, mostly forgotten by major league sports, is massive, with millions of people.

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Although it wouldn't be fair to say that we saw millions nor even thousands - hundreds is probably more accurate - of Golden Knights logos, we can say that we saw more Vegas logos than any other team.

And that's a start.

From the likes of Lanny McDonald and NHL veterans Doug Houda and David Booth to 14-year-olds on vacation with their parents.

From the parents to even their grandparents.

From rink attendants to hockey moms, and just those who stumbled across the crowd and felt compelled to stick around and watch.

People noticed what the new NHL team from Las Vegas was up to.

There was a sense of connection built between these communities and the Golden Knights.

Listening to them, you could hear their words.

But you can also feel it.

And as our caravan arrives back in Las Vegas tonight, there's a sense of this.

That yes, the Golden Knights are first and foremost Las Vegas' team. This team will play its games in Vegas, its players will live in Vegas and the organization will immerse itself in Vegas as the team embarks on its first season.

RELATED: Bozeman, Montana receives boost from VGK's arrival

But that after a week on the road, we saw that Golden Knights Nation is larger than just Las Vegas.

"I've done this kind of work with the Detroit Red Wings, as a player," coach Gerard Gallant said at Saturday's stop in Salt Lake City. "That was a long time ago. They did it in northern Michigan.

"You get players out here, you get coaching staff out here. It was such a successful thing."

For the Golden Knights, this was a new thing.

Something the team will seek to replicate in coming years.

Which for a new team without a history, customs or a past, was the beginning of a tradition.

The Vegas Golden Knights tradition.

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