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Golden Knights superfan on trip of lifetime

Charles Morrison going to Dallas for first game, hoping to see Vegas play in every NHL arena

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

This is his plan:

Fly from Las Vegas to Dallas on Friday morning. Drop his suitcase at the place he rented cheap online. Go to American Airlines Center and check out the scene. Watch the Vegas Golden Knights play the Dallas Stars in the first game in franchise history (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, TVA Sports, FS-SW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV).

Fly from Dallas to Phoenix first thing on Saturday. Watch the Golden Knights play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena in Glendale (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV). Crash with friends in the area.

Fly from Phoenix to Las Vegas on Sunday. Watch the Golden Knights play the Coyotes at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday in the inaugural home opener (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

Keep going, and going, and going. Attend home games and at least 10 road games around North America each season.

"Eventually," Charles Morrison said, "I want to be the first guy to say, 'I saw Vegas play in every NHL arena.' "

Morrison, 30, receives travel benefits through his employer, and he's an extreme example. Still, he's making a major investment in money, time and emotion to follow his new favorite team. His story illustrates what the NHL expansion team -- the first major-league pro team in Las Vegas -- means to people.

"Everybody always asks me, 'What's it like to grow up in Vegas?' " Morrison said. "And my answer has always been, 'Well, I don't know [how it compares to other places]. I didn't grow up anywhere else.' The things we did were normal to us. We always had an endless choice of entertainment, but when it came to sports, you never got much."

Unlike fans in cities with major-league pro teams, Morrison never had a team he naturally identified with, rooted for and agonized over with the rest of the community. He never had a hat or shirt or jersey to wear to represent that he was part of something, from someplace.

"You never had that, 'This is my hometown. This is my team I grew up with,' " Morrison said.

Morrison's first exposure to hockey came when his dad took him to see the Las Vegas Thunder, who played in the International Hockey League from 1993-99. He'd go with friends from school to see the Las Vegas Wranglers, who played in the ECHL from 2003-2014. Living in Seattle for a stint, he'd go see the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. He met his girlfriend, Nicole Johnson, at a game.

 

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Looking for an NHL team to latch onto along the way, he became a Los Angeles Kings fan. He saw them play "Frozen Fury" preseason games in Las Vegas and went to see them at Staples Center in LA, Nationwide Arena in Columbus and Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Then came June 22, 2016.

"When they announced this team, it was almost like Vegas kind of made it," Morrison said. "Like, everybody knows Vegas, and everybody has their idea of Vegas. But it was never a sports town. This could definitely change that, and that excitement is just …

"It's unparalleled."

Morrison bought a pair of full season tickets. He wore a Golden Knights hat and shirt in front of the Eiffel Tower on a trip to Paris in March, before they had a coach, a full roster or uniforms. He went to the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21 to check out T-Mobile Arena and get a first glimpse of the roster. He followed the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23-24, searching each pick to research his history, and went to development camp days later.

"You're finally seeing someone wearing a Golden Knights jersey, even if it was a practice jersey," Morrison said. "You're finally seeing people skate."

The time until rookie camp was eternal.

"It was almost like, 'I can't get enough hockey. I need more hockey in my life, and there's just not enough,' " Morrison said.

So when the Golden Knights rookies scrimmaged the Kings rookies at the Toyota Sports Center on Sept. 12-13, there was Morrison in El Segundo, Calif.

"Yep," Morrison said. "And it was amazing. I was just so excited. Goosebumps."

When the Golden Knights held their first full practice of training camp Sept. 15, Morrison was there too. He went to Denver to see a preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sept. 19 and to T-Mobile Arena to see one against the Kings on Sept 26, the first home game of any kind for a Las Vegas major-league pro team.

This is just the beginning. He hopes others will come along on the journey, at least in spirit.

"It is new for a lot of people," Morrison said. "People aren't too sure about hockey. But I've been trying to say, 'Oh, I'll take you to a game with me.' Once they see it live and they see the energy and excitement and how amazing hockey is, then they get on board. That's what you have to do. Especially in a newer town, you've just got to expose it to as many people as you can where they see that, 'Hey, this is legit, and this is what we want.' "

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