Golden Knights' Theatrics Perfect For Building Las Vegas Fanbase
Las Vegas' penchant for "embracing all variety of variety" has helped the Golden Knights become popular, which has been "evident from the team's home opener," according to John Katsilometes of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. Golden Knights VP/Entertainment Production Jonny Greco said, "We've had officials come in from New York and Chicago and look at what we're doing and say, 'Wow, this would never play in our city,' so we have broken some of the rules. But we've been allowed to make it something very fun, unique and the fans have jumped on it." Greco recalls the "curious looks on faces of his co-workers" when the team pitched plans for their "pregame spectacle." In a theatrical sequence, the Golden Knights have "conveyed the legend of the golden sword, echoing through canyons and finally landing at T-Mobile Arena." A costumed Golden Knight "defends The Fortress against an attack by the visiting mascot, carrying the flag of the opposing team." Greco said, "We have a Las Vegas crowd that is receptive to entertainment, they arrive early and know if they aren't seated by 7:00pm, they'll miss something." Greco added that opposing team officials have "marveled at the early arriving crowds at T-Mobile." Greco: "A lot of stuff we've talked about, what we've done, are not standard. Who opens with a sword battle before every game? Nobody. We have thought, 'Is this going to fly? This is crazy!' The whole time we thought, 'If we're going to do this and fail, at least we'll fail spectacularly'" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/25).
VEGAS STRONG: ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan wrote after the Las Vegas shooting in October, the team "opened its hearts to the city's healing, and in turn, the fans have embraced the team." When the Golden Knights hosted a fan festival in January, "more than 10,000 people showed up." The team has sold tickets at 103.7% of capacity, "fourth best in the NHL." In typical Vegas fashion, the team has "made games a destination." There is the "elaborate pregame ceremony ... and a glow-in-the-dark drum line perched in the 200 level." But the loudest cheers "come from moments of catharsis." At every home game, the team "has honored someone" who was a shooting victim, and both benches give "emphatic stick taps for victims and first responders." In March, the Golden Knights "retired the No. 58, hanging a banner from the rafters" (ESPN.com, 4/24).
WATCH THE THRONE: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes the Golden Knights have "instantly become one of the showcase franchises in branding and marketing." The fan support for the team has "reached an epic level even for a city that believes no show can ever be too big." Golden Knights merchandise sales "rank No. 3 in the NHL," and G Marc-Andre Fleury's jersey is the "No.4-selling jersey." NHL Exec VP/Marketing Brian Jennings said in merchandise sales, the Golden Knights "aren't just outpunching their weight class -- they are right up there with our bigger markets." Jennings: "It is so beyond everyone's expectations. It really has been extraordinary." TV ratings for the team's first-round playoff games on AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain have "increased by more than 200% even from the regular season." The Golden Knights "lead the league in interactions on social media," even though the expansion team has the smallest user base. The team's Twitter feed is "irreverent, fun, clever and authentically Vegas-like" (USA TODAY, 4/26).