The Vegas Golden Knights are set to have their fingerprints all over the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. For the first time ever, the mid-season exhibition will take place in Las Vegas at the club’s home rink, T-Mobile Arena. Golden Knights fans will have several of their own to cheer on come Feb. 5. Here’s what we know so far regarding what to look forward to from a Vegas-centric perspective.
All-Star Weekend on the Strip
Hockey has been a smash success in Sin City dating back to the Golden Knights’ launch in 2017. Apart from playing host to an organization that’s been contending since Day 1 in front of mostly capacity crowds, Las Vegas has been the perennial host of the NHL Awards and has housed countless parties along the Strip in support of the league’s 31st franchise.
Now comes a new celebratory event that Vegas was made for. As part of the Feb. 3-5 All-Star Weekend, the city will host a Fan Fair at the Convention Center with interactive games, kids activities, autograph opportunities, a massive NHL shop and a Stanley Cup photo op. The annual Skills Competition takes place on Friday night, featuring the return of the breakaway challenge and the debut of a trick shot competition.
The marquee event, now all set after the announcement of each division’s “Last Men In” vote-getter, takes place on Saturday. At last check, tickets for the game could still be had for roughly $150. Vegas certainly knows how to throw a party, but let’s just hope that the attendees are better behaved than they were for the NBA’s 2007 All-Star Weekend there. (from “NBA in Vegas: 2007 All-Star Game a ‘disastrous weekend’,” Sam Gordon, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 05/05/2020)
Fans will see a familiar face behind the bench for the Pacific Division group, as Pete DeBoer was named an All-Star head coach by virtue of the Golden Knights owning the division’s best points percentage as of Jan. 10 (presently, they share the points percentage lead with the Calgary Flames).
Coaching within the familiar confines of the Fortress, DeBoer will have the chance to tinker with 3-on-3 lineups featuring the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Johnny Gaudreau. Despite owning a career .544 winning percentage and leading two separate franchises to the Stanley Cup Final, the veteran of 933 games coached has never helmed an All-Star squad.
I’m not sure which is more surprising: that Mark Stone‘s All-Star nomination is the first of his career or that his All-Star Game debut comes in a season where he’s only managed seven goals in 23 games. Stone merits inclusion on talent and pedigree, and fans at T-Mobile Arena will surely come unglued once the captain’s name is announced, but the 29-year-old’s inclusion is still pretty questionable, given his injury-marred start to the campaign.
On the other hand, if Stone’s nomination comes as an overdue right-ing of past wrongs, then you couldn’t have picked a better year to include Vegas’ leader. Beyond the honor that comes with being selected, he now gets the chance to put a frustrating lower-body injury further into the rear view mirror by flanking the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl in front of home fans.
While it’s certainly disappointing to see the likes of Chandler Stephenson miss out on All-Star recognition, Stone’s presence at the All-Star Weekend will represent an awfully encouraging sign for the season’s second half.
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If Stone’s All-Star inclusion seems to be a case of curious timing, then the naming of teammate Alex Pietrangelo can be viewed as recognition of what has been a quietly excellent bounce-back year. Following the defenseman’s bumpy Vegas introduction last year after signing a seven-year, $61.6 million contract, he has amassed six goals and 20 assists, good for second on the team, while steadying the blue line with an average of 25:51 of ice time per game (sixth in the NHL).
To be fair, Pietrangelo’s production isn’t far off his 2020-21 numbers (seven goals, 16 assists in 41 games). But the health of the 32-year-old has played a significant factor — he has missed just two games this season (COVID protocols) after being kept out of 15 a season ago (arm/wrist injury). Not only has that kept him in the lineup more regularly, but it has afforded the 2019 Stanley Cup champ the confidence and chemistry with teammates that comes from being on the ice.
And now, Pietrangelo has a fourth All-Star nomination to show for it.
Having two player representatives, the club’s head coach and coaching staff hosting the rest of the hockey world in their home arena gives the All-Star festivities a decidedly Golden Knights vibe. Hopefully, the allure of a Vegas-based All-Star Weekend can provide the necessary spark for the black and gold to snap themselves out of their current funk and provide a boost across the next six games prior to the break.
I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.