The Las Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newest team is continuing to rewrite history in their inaugural season by accomplishing what very few professional expansion teams have ever accomplished. To some, they have been the darlings of the NHL. There is a lot to applaud in terms of their roster construction and team building, considering the Knights are made up of cast-offs from the rest of the league. For that, it is an incredible, inspirational story that is a “30 for 30” waiting to happen.
I don’t mean to sound negative, and I am sure some people will initially perceive my message that way. But if I’m going to be honest and look at the big picture, specifically from a fan perspective, is this actually a good thing? I’m saying no. I am not trying to rain on the parade of Las Vegas “fans”, those who have enjoyed following the story, or are praying for their 500-1 Stanley Cup bet to cash that they placed for the helluva it.
The Golden Knights punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup on Sunday afternoon, becoming the second NHL expansion team to do so and have a shot at becoming the first to hoist the Cup.
Let’s first address the obvious from a fan experience. If you adopted the Golden Knights as your favorite NHL team, due to geographical reasons, where do you go from here? If they win it their first year, every successive season that doesn’t end with a championship parade down the Vegas strip will be considered a major letdown.
Naturally, the question will be “Are these fans that didn’t have a hockey team prior to 2017 going to be really upset?” Probably not. It’s Vegas, there’s plenty to do and more importantly, plenty to distract yourself from a temporary disappointment of the local sports team. So why is this story actually kind of a bummer? Well, it’s a bummer for the other fans. I’m talking about the fans who have been die-hard fans and have been waiting for their team to finally win it for multiple decades if they have even seen it ever happen.
Let’s be real, its a slap in the face to a lot of fans. And I’m not casting any blame to the Las Vegas organization or any of their fans. They’re not going to try less so they don’t piss off the long-suffering teams and their fans. They did what they were supposed to do and good for them. But for the die-hard fans of teams that haven’t won in over 30 years like the Toronto Maple Leafs (1967), Philadelphia Flyers (1975) or New York Islanders (1983) or teams that have been around for at least 40 years and have never won like the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, or Buffalo Sabres, watching this HAS TO suck.
When I watch a championship series or game in a major sport and do not have a dog in the fight, I have a very simple rule to help determine my rooting interest: Which fanbase has been starved longer? It’s why I was all aboard Boston Red Sox bandwagon in 2004 and the Chicago Cubs in 2016. I love seeing good, loyal fanbases finally get rewarded with what the most cynical of fans believed would never happen: a championship celebration.
If you ask a Cubs or Red Sox fan how much more satisfying that win was after years of suffering, they’d all tell you it only made the championship that much sweeter. After watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles FINALLY win a Super Bowl this past February, I can confidently say that all the years of disappointment and heartbreak made the victory that much more exciting.
Just like in other areas of life, most people would agree that success is appreciated so much more following struggles and failures. On the other hand, most would probably agree that instant success or gratification before any struggles is not nearly as satisfying and sometimes it can even be harmful in the long-run due to heightened, unrealistic expectations.
It makes me cringe when new sports franchises win right away. It took the Arizona Diamondbacks three seasons to win a World Series and the Florida Marlins won two within their first ten years of existence. I am sure those championships were fun to watch, live through and experience. But there is no way it can match the feeling of a championship after years of hardship or coming up short.
Now the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the next candidate to fall in this company. If you’re a new fan, I hope you enjoy it. But as crazy as this advice may sound, cherish it because you never know when they’ll be back.