The Las Vegas Strip has long been home to an eclectic group of headliners. Although in the lore of this city's historic acts, there's never been anything quite like what will happen when the Golden Knights skate onto NHL ice this October.
Vegas has had its singers and showstoppers, its Rat Pack and even its share of white tigers. But despite this being the land where the impossible becomes possible, where the unthinkable becomes the latest headline on a marquee, professional sports had been the one territory that long seemed a little too far-fetched, even for a city where far-fetched acts have become as routine as a special vacation package.
In a city where long odds are just part of the allure, perhaps it's only appropriate that the city's first major league sports team will play hockey, of which the native environment couldn't be any more opposite than that of the Nevada desert.
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Vegas' NHL franchise was born on June 22, although it wasn't until November 22, 2016 that it became known as the Golden Knights.
The five months between those two dates were filled with action, both public and behind the scenes, that shaped the direction this franchise will take, both in the immediate and long-term future. In the months, even years before Vegas was awarded an NHL franchise, a trail of seemingly unrelated, but very much connected events similarly helped shaped the formation and direction of Vegas hockey.
Writer Alex Prewitt recently went behind the scenes to profile this timeline of events in Sports Illustrated.
Then along came the Maloofs, friends of Bettman's since the 1980s, when the commissioner worked as the NBA' general counsel. The family had already lobbied once for hockey in Las Vegas, with success: Its off-strip property, Palms Casino Resort, hosted the annual NHL awards ceremony from 2009 to '11. So as the Maloofs finalized their sale of the Kings in May '13, they called Bettman to meet. "He didn't say no," remembers Gavin Maloof, second of George and Colleen's five children. "He didn't say yes. He said, 'I'll think about it.'"
That cracked the door, but the Maloofs needed a business partner to assume majority control and be, Gavin says, "the front man." Through a mutual contact, they soon learned of a billionaire in Florida who had previously explored buying the Jaguars and still wanted to break into sports. Gavin and Joe flew to Jacksonville for an icebreaking meeting, dressed in new suits-unusual for the laid-back brothers. "We go into Bill's office, and he comes out in jeans and a T-shirt," Gavin says. "He goes, 'What are you guys all dressed up for?' That was the time we knew we were going to have a good relationship."
To read the full story from Sports Illustrated, CLICK HERE.