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May 22, 2017

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Team name announcement a chance to continue hockey celebration, grow fan base

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Steve Marcus

Hockey fans wait for a news conference where the Las Vegas NHL team’s name and logo will be unveiled in the Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

It’s these types of days I’ve long wanted to give to my son. Until now, though, there weren’t many chances for one of those memorable father-son outings to a Las Vegas sporting event.

The plan is to leave work early today and grab my kindergartner for a trip to the Strip for a historic moment in the history of our hometown. The expansion National Hockey League team will announce its name, colors and logo in a family-friendly event at Toshiba Plaza outside T-Mobile Arena.

Once the league awarded a team to Southern Nevada this summer, the attention of fans quickly shifted to the name. We’ve all had a suggestion — some good; others comical. It doesn’t matter how bizarre your suggestion was, at least you were interested. At least you took ownership.

Whether it’s the Desert Knights, Golden Knights or Silver Knights, our family will passionately cheer during the unveiling. We may even buy some memorabilia, which will be on sale following the 5:30 p.m. free announcement. Our town has a team, finally, and we couldn’t be happier.

I’m a native Las Vegan and darn proud to be from the 702. Knowing we’ll have a team traveling around North America representing our town and with players who have “Las Vegas” on the front of their jersey gets my juices flowing. It raises the status of our town worldwide and shows that Las Vegas is a community capable of supporting a franchise.

My initial fear when the Bill Foley-led group started its work toward earning expansion approval from the league was the franchise would fail, and that would hinder other teams from considering coming here.

The sport is an acquired taste and this isn’t a hockey town. But, as I’m starting to realize, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn.

More than 16,000 season-ticket deposits not only confirmed residents had an appetite for the sport but also had pride in the city they lived in. It also helped drive apart the theory that T-Mobile Arena will be filled on game nights with fans from other cities. Sure, there’s always going to be supporters for the road team, but it won’t be as severe as some have assumed.

That’s what makes today’s unveiling so critical in developing a fan base. The franchise could have easily made the announcement through a video online or through advertisements. Instead, they are turning it into a celebration of sport and team.

It’s all part of Foley’s plan to get locals to support his franchise. In our initial conversation more than 18 months ago, Foley spoke about his desire to have no seats available on game night for fans of the opposition.

His comments didn’t make sense because I believed catering to fans from other cities would be the lone way the franchise would turn a profit. You have to get people in the arena 40-plus nights a year and locals couldn’t do it alone, I argued.

But Foley quickly corrected me, saying the only way to thrive — on the ice and with turning a profit — was through the support of locals. They need to attend games, spend money and be vested in the outcome of games. It’s the only way this will work, he told me.

Foley, to his credit, has been more than an owner who wrote a big check and let others do the work. He wants to win hockey games and championships, and has been hands-on in fulfilling that mission.

Yes, without the $500 million in expansion fees and other startup costs, there’s no team in Las Vegas. But he’s not letting his work stop there. It can’t stop.

From all accounts, Foley has been first-class each step of the way — from the practice facility in Summerlin, hiring of office personnel and scouts, and interacting with Las Vegans in numerous public appearances.

Today is about more than learning what we’ll call this hockey team. It’s about continuing the celebration that we have a hockey team. It won’t be the last time we Las Vegans get together at Toshiba Plaza for this franchise.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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