As one of the announced 18,191 on-hand for Tuesday’s historic night at T-Mobile Arena, I had the chance to experience for myself what many had been looking forward to for more than a year – the debut of NHL hockey in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a city that is still recovering from the tragic events of October 1, the Vegas Golden Knights managed to put on a show for their fans as they defeated the visiting Arizona Coyotes 5-2 on what was a very emotional evening at T-Mobile Arena.
Fans from around the league have been unsure what to expect if they travel to Sin City to see their favorite team take on the Golden Knights, so we’ll try to give you a rundown of what game days in Las Vegas are like.
A Prime Location
There have been many questions as to whether or not the NHL would work in Las Vegas, but the Golden Knights are already off to a great start in the Entertainment Capital of the World. Working in their favor is the fact that T-Mobile Arena is situated in an outstanding location – it is steps from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip and is located right next to the New York-New York Hotel and Casino. In fact, the two establishments even share a parking garage.
Like many who visit Las Vegas, I chose to stay at a resort on the Strip for the game. While walking is usually the most convenient travel method on the Strip, I elected to utilize a rideshare service to reach T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday in order to see just how much the arena and resulting game-day traffic would affect the already-notorious traffic congestion on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Despite my low expectations, the ride was indeed a short one – it took a mere five minutes to travel from the Planet Hollywood Resort to the T-Mobile Arena drop-off location at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. Admittedly, I arrived at the arena more than two hours prior to puck drop to ensure I had enough time to take in the sights and sounds of the first Golden Knights regular season home game, but getting to the arena couldn’t have been easier.
From the rideshare drop-off point at Monte Carlo’s main entrance, a short walk southwards across New York-New York’s Park Avenue brings you to T-Mobile Arena’s Toshiba Plaza. For the Golden Knights’ inaugural home game, Toshiba Plaza was bustling with activity. The NHL’s Centennial Fan Arena was on-site, giving hockey fans in Las Vegas the chance to get up to speed on the league’s 100 years of operation before heading inside for the Golden Knights’ inaugural home game. Additionally, in light of the recent tragedy which struck Las Vegas earlier in October, fans had the chance to sign their names and leave messages on six large letters (spelling out STRONG, for Vegas Strong) inside the Centennial Fan Arena.
I spent only a few minutes at the Centennial Fan Arena before heading inside T-Mobile, but it was immediately clear that both the Golden Knights and the City of Las Vegas had the support of the entire league. Fans of the visiting Arizona Coyotes, as well as supporters of the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, were spotted signing the ‘STRONG’ letters in Toshiba Plaza.
Some often forget that the NHL is one big family, but that fact was not lost on those who attended Tuesday’s game in Las Vegas. Players from around the league were shown on the jumbotron throughout the night, all proclaiming that they were on Las Vegas’ team. The Golden Knights are the league’s newest member, but it’s clear that they’re already a part of the NHL family.
Food and Drink Choices Aplenty
Once inside of a professional sports stadium or arena, one is usually at the whim of the arena’s management staff. Management knows that spectators don’t have any food or beverage options other than the arena’s own stands once inside, so many venues choose to price gouge their fans at games. While beers and other alcoholic beverages were expensive inside the arena (it’s Vegas, after all), numerous other food options were well within reason for the average fan. A medium soda cost just $4 inside, and a good-sized soft pretzel was just $7.
Additionally, the food options inside were of much higher quality than some of the other NHL arenas that I’ve visited. T-Mobile Arena boasts three Pink’s Hot Dogs locations and also offers a pizza stand that cooks their pies fresh in a brick oven. Pink’s is famous for their specialty hot dogs, and the chili dog I had at the arena didn’t disappoint. The stand inside T-Mobile wasn’t as good as the original stand on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, but it was still miles ahead of the hot dogs you’ll get in other arenas throughout the league.
Like their hot dogs, T-Mobile Arena’s pizza was outstanding. They were sold out when I went during the second intermission to purchase a pepperoni pizza, so I waited an extra few minutes for a pie that was fresh out of the oven. It was definitely worth the wait, and was good enough to rival some of the pizza establishments you can find out on the Strip.
T-Mobile Arena will always be in constant competition for their fans’ business with the numerous restaurants and bars out on the Strip, but they’re off to a good start in Vegas. Their food and beverage options are already some of the best in the league, and they likely will get better as the arena receives feedback from Golden Knights season ticket holders throughout the season.
An Unforgettable Atmosphere
Put simply, the crowd at T-Mobile Arena was electric on Tuesday night. An emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the victims of the October 1 tragedy left few dry eyes in the house, and the Golden Knights fed off of the crowd’s energy as they jumped all over the visiting Coyotes and scored four goals in the game’s first 10:42.
The Vegas Golden Knights held a moment of silence for 58 seconds in honor of the 58 victims of the Vegas shooting. pic.twitter.com/VR9g053bPR
— ESPN (@espn) October 11, 2017
The game itself had a very Vegas feel – when each Golden Knights goal was announced, the sound of a slot machine was played in the background, and Elvis Presley’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ blared over the arena sound system after the home team wrapped up their first victory on home ice.
Of course, it’s impossible for the City of Las Vegas to host a big event without putting on a show – performers from Cirque du Soleil took the ice during the first intermission, and stars from many different shows in Vegas made appearances during the team’s gold carpet ceremony prior to puck drop and/or were shown on the jumbotron throughout the contest. Needless to say, those in attendance definitely got their fill of Carrot Top for the night.
— Cirque du Soleil (@Cirque) October 11, 2017
Despite the fact that the game was the Golden Knights’ first-ever regular season home contest, the interior of T-Mobile Arena felt like it had already been the team’s home for multiple seasons. A medieval castle could be seen in the arena’s 100 level, and a large mosaic picture of the Las Vegas Strip was seen in the rafters above the castle. The team’s in-arena host referred to the arena as ‘the Fortress’ and started a chant of ‘Go Knights Go’ at every opportunity. It’s clear that the Golden Knights are already well on their way toward establishing their own new and unique traditions at T-Mobile Arena.
‘The Entertainment Capital’ Goes Pro
We all know that Las Vegas is already America’s greatest party city. Now, with the arrival of the Golden Knights, Las Vegas may have earned another title – America’s most exciting sports town.
With T-Mobile Arena nestled in between two megaresorts in New York-New York and Monte Carlo, fans are always close to the action. There are endless dining and entertainment possibilities on the Las Vegas Strip, and New York-New York itself appears to have already fully embraced the Golden Knights. Signage welcoming hockey fans to the city could be seen everywhere throughout the resort, and numerous bars and restaurants were offering food and drink specials before Tuesday’s home opener.
If you’re a fan of one of the other 30 NHL teams, and you’re thinking about taking a trip to Las Vegas to see your favorite team play this season, book your flights now. Vegas has always been a premier entertainment destination, and, with the arrival of the Golden Knights, it has now also become a premier professional sports town.
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.