PLANO, Texas -- It’s a good time for hockey in Las Vegas.
In roughly six months, the Vegas Golden Knights will play their first game as a National Hockey League team. It’s created an air of excitement in the desert about hockey, and even non-hockey fans are already starting to take notice.
“I’ve had a bunch of football players and baseball players in school ask me about it,” said Seth Knudsen, captain of the 16U Nevada Storm. “They’re asking how you skate, how you shoot. Since the NHL said it was coming here it’s been a common conversation.”
That general interest should be a boost for youth hockey and help grow the game in Nevada.
“We don’t have the huge tryout numbers right now, but that’s our goal,” Storm coach Martin Lacroix said. “It’s exciting to be able to push and grow the game out there. And I think having the NHL team will really make a difference.”
And the NHL team is helping push those efforts. The Golden Knights and the Nevada Storm announced a partnership on April 4 to launch the Vegas Junior Golden Knights program. The program will introduce new teams, while current Nevada Storm teams will be re-branded as Vegas Junior Golden Knights next season.
A former professional hockey player and referee, Lacroix said it was a rewarding announcement and it comes at an exciting time with his team representing Nevada at the USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships in Plano and Frisco, suburbs north of Dallas.
“It’s cool to see hockey growing and getting more attention back home, and I think we can show some people here that we actually know how to play hockey in Vegas,” Storm goalie Luke Fundator said after posting a 4-0 shutout against the Montana Thunderblades on Thursday. “People in school now say, ‘You play hockey, that’s awesome.’ And they often ask about it and want to learn more.”
Those types of conversations could lead to more Nevada natives trying on a pair of skates.
At the moment, Lacroix estimates 25 percent of the youth players in Las Vegas are originally from Nevada. Most are transplants to the area while others grew up in families that originated from more traditional hockey markets and brought their hockey fandom with them to the desert.
“I actually played soccer first,” Fundator said. “And then a family from Canada moved into our neighborhood and we watched them play and I was hooked. One of them was a goalie and I just thought it was the coolest thing.”
Other players on the Storm have similar backstories, while all of them are excited about the growth of the game in their hometown.
Right now there are three full-time ice sheets in the area. That number will grow to five once the Golden Knights practice facility is completed this fall, and that should help attract more youth players.
“More rinks the better,” Lacroix said. “Growing the game here is the most important thing to us. We can start to see what this could become, and we’re really excited for that opportunity.”
It would also be a thrill for the Storm to bring a championship back to one of those rinks.
“That would be great,” Knudsen said. “That be something I’d be happy to tell people about when they asked about hockey in the desert. This is the only organization I’ve ever played for, so to win would be even nicer.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
|Youth Tier I (14U)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (16U, 18U)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||April 6-10, 2017|
|Girls Tier I||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Women's A, B, C||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-9, 2017|
|High School||Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Suburban Hockey||March 22-26, 2017|
|Girls Tier II||Troy, Michigan||Troy Youth Hockey Association||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (14U)||Coral Springs, Florida||Florida Panthers Ice Den||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (16U)||Frisco, Texas||Texas Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (18U)||Lansing, Michigan||Lansing Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Sled||San Jose, California||Sharks Ice||April 6-9, 2017|
|Adult Rec Men's||Wesley Chapel, Florida||Florida Hospital Center Ice||April 20-23, 2017|
|Adult Rec Women's||Ellenton, Florida||Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex||April 27-30, 2017|