Desert Companion

The puck starts here

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Hockey illustration by Chris Morris
Illustration by Chris Morris

You have a year to become a real hockey fan. Here’s how.

On June 22, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman made official what had long been rumored: The league would become the first of the nation’s four major professional sports organizations to plant a flag in Las Vegas.

With Bettman’s announcement that Florida finance mogul Bill Foley could pony up $500 million to put an expansion team here in time for the 2017--18 season, many in the community swelled with pride — precisely five weeks after its 111th birthday, our city was finally all grown up. By delivering us an NHL franchise, Foley and Bettman have given Southern Nevadans something many of us have needed: an identity around which to rally.

Of course, now the onus is on us to prove that this deserves to be a Major League City. With our yet-to-be-named franchise set to play its first game in October 2017, you’ve got one calendar year to learn what it means to become a true fan of the home team. Here are some tips:

 

Today: Get to know the league and our team’s place in it. With the addition of Las Vegas, the NHL will have 31 clubs — 16 in the Eastern Conference and 15 in the Western. Las Vegas will compete in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division.

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Tomorrow: So you already know the league, you say? You’re a Northern California transplant and San Jose Sharks fan? Not for long! The Sharks (along with teams from Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver) are in the Pacific Division and thus become a blood enemy in exactly a year — which is precisely how much time you have to renounce that allegiance.

November 15: If you expect to attend games at T-Mobile Arena, it’s time to start lubing your vocal chords and strengthening your legs. Because NHL fans rarely sit down. Or shut up. 

December 1: Hockey isn’t a complicated game to grasp, but it does have its own terminology. Google “icing,” “offsides,” “blue line” and “power play.” If you turn to another fan on opening night and ask, “What’s icing?” you’re liable to get cross-checked. (Google that one, too.)

December 2: Also Google “The Great One” and “Mr. Hockey.” If someone mentions either, you must never ask, “Who?”

January 1, 2017: Forget college football. You’re spending New Year’s Day watching a marathon of cinematic hockey classics: the Mighty Ducks franchise, followed by Miracle and finishing with Slap Shot. You will watch that last one, a cult flick, at least once a week until opening night.

March 17, 2017: On St. Paddy’s Day, collect and stash hats discarded by oblivious binge-drinkers. Yes, hats. You’ll need them at T-Mobile. Because when someone from the home team scores three goals in a game — a “hat trick,” as you know from your Googling — fans salute by showering the ice with hats. You don’t want to part with that $30 lid with the team logo.

June 1, 2017: Speaking of logo’d merchandise, now is the time to pick up your authentic team jersey. They aren’t cheap, but you must own at least one and wear it frequently — especially at home games. One thing: They’re called “sweaters,” not jerseys (hardcore hockey fans take their lingo seriously).

June 2, 2017: Put the face paint back on the shelf.

October, 2017: When Bettman comes to T-Mobile Arena for our first home game, you will boo him. Loudly and often. Why would you boo the first major league commissioner to roll the dice on Las Vegas? Because he’s still Gary Bettman, and in accordance with NHL fan bylaws, Gary Bettman must be booed. Always. It will make sense eventually. When it does, you’ll know you’re a true hockey fan at last. 

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