The Vegas Golden Knights have come a long way this season. Now that the season is in its second quarter, the Golden Knights are in desperate need of rivals. Sports fans know that there is just something special about rivalry games. The team has exceeded expectations thus far, weathering the good and bad streaks of a season. Some of the best rivalries are forged out of new teams clashing against each other.
The league is full of great rivalries, whether based on players or long-standing tradition. Pittsburgh and Washington share a divisional rivalry as well as a rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. With Vegas drawing names from teams that no longer desired their services, many of the players may have vendettas against their former teams. A need has arisen for Vegas to have rivalry games, but how might they be shaped?
There has been one established rivalry that has grown from geographic similarity. The Arizona Coyotes, the league’s only other desert-dwelling team, are a natural geographical rival for the Knights. The teams have already faced off four times, with the Coyotes falling all four times, two of which in overtime. While this may not seem like a rivalry yet, it will have potential to grow into one as the teams continue to face off.
Though Vegas’ pick from the Coyotes has been relegated to the minors, Teemu Pulkkinen could eventually play a part in this rivalry. Until then, the Golden Knights’ four-game lead has people wondering if this really will become a rivalry. The Knights look to claim that they are truly the only hockey that can survive in the desert, but the Coyotes will eventually have something to say about that.
Split Series Thus Far
Looking at more competitive season campaigns, the Golden Knights could look to forge rivalries with two other teams. First, the Dallas Stars have become a team that can bring the best out of Vegas. After losing in a thriller in the season opener, Dallas thwarted Vegas’ attempt to gain a two-win lead in the series. Storming into Las Vegas, the Stars turned the lights out on the Knights with a 3-0 win, evening the series at one win apiece.
Dallas has another compelling reason to be a current rival. Former Stars players James Neal and Cody Eakin played a part in spoiling Dallas’ home opener. Neal scored both goals in that game and Eakin assisted on Neal’s game-winner. The Stars repaid the favor, shutting down their former players in the rematch.
Another team that has split a season series with the Knights so far is Boston. The Bruins have been competitive against Vegas, winning on home ice and losing in Vegas. Colin Miller, drafted from the Bruins, has had seven shots on goal against his former team. While the defenseman is not known for scoring, he has bolstered the team’s defense and helped to keep the scoresheets fairly empty against Boston and other opponents this season.
Sure, Arizona falls into this category. But they were on a different list. Instead, I am going to focus on two Californian teams. Anaheim and Los Angeles have had impressive seasons recently. As established teams, they both are in prime position to establish a rivalry with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Ducks and the Kings both dropped their first encounters with the Knights.
Brayden McNabb, the former Kings player, was the first Golden Knights player to sign a long-term extension. The Kings were prepared to part with his talents, and Vegas was more than happy to accept him. That kind of tension can create a rivalry all on its own. Teams will rally around players who are facing their old teams, and if enough happens on the ice, rivalries will spring from those confrontations. Having the Kings and Knights face off year after year could be a great new rivalry in the Pacific Division.
Meanwhile, Clayton Stoner has yet to play in the regular season. He was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season. Until he returns, the Ducks may be saved from forming a rivalry with the Knights.
The final rivalries that may spring out of Vegas’ appearance in hockey are those based on tourism. What bigger sports market is there than New York? The answer: there simply isn’t one. Luckily, New York also has two teams that could form rivalries with Vegas, attempting to claim rights to the bright lights and “city that never sleeps” monikers. There are no two cities that seem to never stop breathing more than Las Vegas and New York.
The Golden Knights face losing records against both the Islanders and Rangers. If Vegas is given the chance to gain redemption, these rivalries could be brought to hard-hitting life. What fun it would be to have cross-country rivalry games! And New Yorkers would love to head to Vegas for a game if only to bet on the games legally.
Whoever springs forward to become the Golden Knights’ “true rival” remains to be seen. Arizona has the best claim, though they have not lived up to the rivalry on the ice. Whoever it may be, the Knights are looking for someone to head into hard-hitting, goal-seeking combat with.
Eric Hall has been an avid sports fan for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Ohio, he learned about hockey through heated college games between Ohio State and Michigan. His NHL love was universal, and to avoid becoming a bandwagon fan, his allegiance fell to the newest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights.