(The Vegas Golden Knights have yet to play a game, but the NHL expansion team is already watching the clock run down.
Before the hockey team begins its inaugural season in October, a coach and players need to be signed, a $24 million practice facility needs to be built, and the Southern Nevada community needs to be engaged.
Helping put the pieces together is Nehme E. Abouzeid, the Golden Knight's senior vice president and chief marketing officer. He came to the team after three years as an executive with Wynn Las Vegas.
“I think just for us we need to start to grow hockey in the community,” Abouzeid said.
Abouzeid said ticket sales and merchandise sales are doing well but the big task before them is educating many people in Southern Nevada about what a 41 home games hockey season looks like.
While some of the tickets have been picked up by businesses, a lot of them have been purchased by individuals and families, Abouzeid said, and a lot of those people are born and raised Las Vegas locals who are happy to finally have a pro sports team to call their own.
“I really believe there has been a lot of unmet demand for pro sports for a long time,” he said.
Many people have worried about the Las Vegas fan base supporting a team that isn't winning.
Larry Fisher is a writer for the website thehockeywriters.com. He said it is unlikely that an expansion team like the Golden Knights will have a stellar season at the beginning.
He said each team in the NHL is allowed to keep between nine and 11 players already on their roster. The Golden Knights will pick players from those that are not being kept and with any money left over they can pick any free agents they want.
Fisher says it will be like starting from scratch.
“Hopefully, the fan base shows some patience and gets behind this team because I think its going to be an exciting organization in Vegas,“ he said.
But Fisher, who lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, says he already knows people who are planning vacations to visit Las Vegas and see their favorite Canadian hockey team play the Golden Knights.
“There’s nothing we love more than hockey,” he said. So while there is a lot to do in Las Vegas besides hockey, it will still be a top priority for many of the 1.5 million Canadians who visit the city each year.
Abouzeid agreed that the Golden Knights will be another pillar in the city's tourist economy, the team's primary concern is building a local fan base.
(Editor's note: This story originally aired December 2016)
Nehme E. Abouzeid, chief marketing officer, Vegas Golden Knights; Larry Fisher, writer, The Hockey Writers
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