Not only is Cinderella is going to the ball, but it looks like the coach may not turn into a pumpkin. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup finals. To say the hockey world is stunned is probably the understatement of 2018.
The Knights are an expansion team in their first season in the National Hockey League. Expansion teams are usually the league doormats. Rich team owners are expected to pay franchise fees and get little in return, cast-off players the other teams no longer wanted. The owners of the new Las Vegas franchise however, asked for and received better players for their $500 million payment. It looks like their stubbornness has paid off.
The Golden Knights success shows how important a team concept can be. Las Vegas had the opportunity to draft one player from each of the other NHL teams, a solid player but not a superstar. I don’t know if anyone wanted to go to Las Vegas, but those players selected have certainly gelled.
This is not the first time an expansion team has made it to the Stanley Cup finals. In 1968, the St. Louis Blues made it their first season. That year though, the playoff format guaranteed that one of six new franchises would play in the finals. The Golden Knights had no such guarantees.
Everybody loves an underdog and the Cinderella story has a universal appeal. I guess that means I will be cheering for the Knights in their quest for the Cup. I do so with regret though. To get to the final they defeated the Winnipeg Jets, the last Canadian team still in this year’s playoffs. The nationalist in me is disappointed with that.
It has been a long time since a Canadian team won the Cup – 25 years since Les Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 finals. Statistically it is an unlikely drought, but statistics are for mathematicians not hockey fans.
Hockey is Canada’s game, so we feel quite naturally that we should win the championships. The realities of the professional game are different. Nationality isn’t an issue when it is different cities competing for a trophy. There will be Canadian players on the Stanley Cup winning team this year. There are every year. But the Cup won’t be coming home.
My guess is it will be on display in a Las Vegas casino. After they make the movie about this improbable playoff run.