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Looking Back On Vegas' Top Hockey Moments In 2016

2016 was filled with highlights for Las Vegas, beginning with when the city was awarded an NHL franchise in June

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

2016 was a memorable year for hockey in Las Vegas.

Team announcements, name unveilings and key hires were only some of the highlights.

As the calendar year ends, here's our look back at the six most memorable moments for Las Vegas hockey in 2016.

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April 6, 2016: T-Mobile Arena Opens

There was hardly a patch of ice to be found, other than what could be found in the audience's drinks. And on a date where there were still questions of whether or not Las Vegas would get an NHL team, April 6, 2016 might not seem like the most relevant date in Golden Knights franchise history.

Yet on a Wednesday night last spring, as The Killers performed in front of a sold-out crowd along with performances by Wayne Newton and Shamir, it was a vital moment in Vegas' hockey history: it marked the grand opening of T-Mobile Arena.

The immediate acclaim that T-Mobile Arena received proved to be the final cherry on top of Vegas' bid for an NHL franchise, which finally was awarded two months later.

Video: NHL announces Las Vegas expansion franchise

 

June 22, 2016: Vegas Is Hockey

For years, it was a pipedream for Vegas. On June 22, 2016, it became a reality.

RELATED: Relive June 22 in photos

That afternoon, Las Vegas was finally - and officially - awarded an NHL franchise, set to begin play in the NHL's Pacific Division at the start of the 2017-18 season.

"Our great sports town now has a major league franchise, the NHL," Foley said that day. "It's the best of the leagues. It's a legendary league. Las Vegas is my home along with 2.3 million other people. We want everyone to be a fan. We're dedicated to it. We'll leave no stone unturned in our dedication and our pursuit of hockey here in Las Vegas, not just for our team, but for the community."

The announcement was immediately followed by the NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel later that night.

 

July 13, 2016: George McPhee Becomes GM

In the weeks following the announcement of Las Vegas' NHL franchise, the most pressing order of business was hiring the team's general manager.

With everything else - the hiring of staff, the scouting of players, a direction for the team - stuck in neutral until this decision was made, George McPhee was introduced as the team's general manager 21 days after the franchise was born.

RELATED: 7 Fun George McPhee facts

McPhee went on to add 28 members to the team's hockey operations staff throughout the summer. And when the Golden Knights take the ice next October, the on-ice success that the team has will largely be attributed to this date.

 

October 5, 2016: Digging In For Hockey

When the Golden Knights take the ice next October, T-Mobile Arena will be the venue for all of the team's home games.

Most of the other team's business will be conducted in suburban Summerlin, where a state-of-the-art practice facility will open next year.

Shovels were put in the ground and construction on the facility began at a memorable groundbreaking ceremony on October 5.

Besides being a homebase for Golden Knights front office staff and players, this yet-to-be-named venue will hold a vital place in the area's hockey scene. It will feature two NHL-sized (200x85) ice rinks, which when not being used by the Golden Knights will be established as a hub for youth and community hockey leagues throughout the region.

Video: Las Vegas NHL Breaks Ground On Practice Facility

 

October 7 and October 8: T-Mobile Arena Hosts NHL Hockey

NHL games had been played in Vegas before.

All the way back in 1991, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers played the league's first-ever outdoor game at Caesars Palace.

Since 1997, when Frozen Fury was born and the Kings began annually hosting exhibition contests, Las Vegas had hosted an additional 17 NHL contests, albeit all of the exhibition variety.

On October 7 and 8, 2016, the Kings faced the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche in the final two Frozen Fury games. Which as much as these games ended one era of Las Vegas hockey, they opened another as the first NHL games in T-Mobile Arena history.

This historic weekend was highlighted by a ceremony in which Kings President of Business Operations and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille presented Golden Knights owner Bill Foley with a special silver stick. And with that, the torch of hockey in Las Vegas had been passed to the city's new franchise.

 

November 22: The Golden Knights Are Born

Las Vegas had an NHL team for five months. On November 22, after much buildup and speculation, that franchise finally had a name.

RELATED: The best photos from November 22's name unveil

That day, the Golden Knights were introduced in front of a large, boisterous crowd outside of T-Mobile Arena. And with a national TV audience tuning in via the NHL Network, the world laid eyes on the franchise's logo for the first time.

Video: Bill Foley on the choosing of team name and logo

Which as 2016 turns to 2017 and this franchise enjoys many more milestones, was the precise moment where this city was given a rallying cry.

And in the process, the city's franchise received an identity.

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