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December 11, 2017

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Golden Knights are looking for a standout fan experience at T-Mobile

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L.E. Baskow

Mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster celebrates the Golden Knights’ 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins at T-Mobile Arena Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Golden Knights Home Opener

A first responder walks out onto the ice with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland (5) during opening ceremonies at their season home opener game at the T-Mobile Arena Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Goal sirens, Panic! at the Disco, an illuminated drumline and the Gila monster, Chance.

It’s all part of the in-game entertainment for the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Head of marketing and entertainment, Jonny Greco, and his team have created an experience like no other NHL venue, and it’s only the beginning, they say.

Here’s a look:

Chance the Gila monster

When Chance first walked out of the castle perched high above section 101 at T-Mobile Arena, there was quite a bit of confusion. What was this yellow- and black-striped lizard? Many guessed it was a dragon or a dinosaur, but it was soon revealed that Chance is a Gila monster.

“We wanted to go with something random, but not as random as the Phoenix Suns with a gorilla,” Greco said. “In our case, the Gila monster is indigenous to our area. It’s something that is ours that other people can’t claim. It’s a little tip of the cap to Nevada.”

Gila monsters (pronounced Hee-Luh) live in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico and take their name from Arizona’s Gila River basin, where they were first discovered, according to National Geographic.

The lizards are a protected species in Nevada and can be seen at the Springs Preserve Origen Museum. They can grow to nearly two feet long, weigh as much as four pounds, and are one of only two poisonous lizards in the world.

Why wouldn’t the team go with the obvious option of a knight mascot?

“We did a lot of observing other teams, and when they have had knights as mascots they are a little less kid friendly, so when you do a school event or things like that, they aren’t as fun because knights are a little more tough,” Greco said. “If we made a knight that was too kid friendly, it would have cheapened our brand, so we decided to go with something completely different.”

Officials say the name Chance came about because owner Bill Foley “took a chance on Las Vegas.”

The glowing drumline

The Golden Knights' drumline leads the “March to the Match,” which starts near the faux Brooklyn Bridge in front of New York-New York and ends at T-Mobile Arena. Once they’re inside, the band of percussionists leads chants to create a festive atmosphere similar to college sports.

“Part of our goal for game day experience was to do things that are great for the fans, but also different from other teams,” Greco said. “I’m not sure if it’s the only drumline in the NHL, but it’s the only one I know of. It’s a lot more popular in the NBA, but not so much in hockey.”

The “Knight Line” sits in front of the castle inside the arena, glowing throughout the game with neon-lit sunglasses, gloves and drums.

The goal song

The most highly debated portion of Golden Knights in-game entertainment was without a doubt the goal song. Goal songs are important in hockey, and are even considered part of the fabric of a team.

Greco and his team tried out different options in the preseason, spent hours in their offices going through tracks and landed on “Vegas Lights” by Panic! at the Disco.

“It fits in so many ways because it’s a local band, it has the word ‘Vegas’ in it, and it’s a fun song with a good beat,” Greco said.

Panic! lead singer Brendon Urie and ex-bassist Brent Wilson went to Palo Verde High School and have said they paid homage to the town they grew up in with “Vegas Lights.”

The song’s chorus, which plays every time the Golden Knights score a goal, goes like this:

In the Vegas lights

Where villains spend the weekend

The deep end

We’re swimming with the sharks until we drown

The Vegas lights

The lies and affectations

Sensation

We’re winning till the curtain’s coming down

“I think all of the best goal songs give the fans a chance to chant along with the song, and this one definitely has that,” Greco said.

While nothing is set in stone, Greco said he expects it to be the permanent goal song.

The opening ceremony

A miniature play takes place on the ice before players come out of the locker rooms.

A giant stone is placed at center ice with a sword protruding from the top. A hooded villain character emerges waiving a flag for the opposing team and unsuccessfully tries to pull the sword from the stone. A man in golden armor then vanquishes him after successfully retrieving the sword.

It looks like something from across the street at the Excalibur, where the “Tournament of Kings” show performs nightly, and it’s exactly as Foley wanted it.

Foley described the exact scene multiple times after the team name was revealed, and now it’s a reality before every home game.

Hollywood quality music

When the Golden Knights do finally take the ice, they walk through the long tunnel leading to the rink, jump through the door and begin warming up by skating in circles around their half.

The song that plays during that is called “John Wick Mode” and was written and produced by Tyler Bates, who has produced the score for major Hollywood movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy," "John Wick," "Dawn of the Dead," "300" and "Conan the Barbarian."

Bates worked with the Golden Knights to design the music for the video that accompanies the above-mentioned opening ceremony, and has a hand in many of the songs that play throughout T-Mobile Arena.

A work in progress

The in-game entertainment for Golden Knights games is far from a finished product.

“We are making adjustments with every game,” Greco said. “We listen to what people like and what they don’t like. We will finally get a break after (the last game in the opening home stand on Oct. 27) and we will have two weeks to really examine what we are doing.”

The team has already cranked up the volume on the goal song after fans said they couldn’t hear it for the first few games, and many more changes are expected.

“We want to form traditions, but you can’t force it,” Greco said. “You can give people some instruction but you can’t tell them what to do or it gets annoying. The traditions will come with time.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.