I honestly hate this. A big, beautiful condor named Queen Victoria, probably confused and scared out of its’ mind, at an ECHL game between the Bakersfield Condors and Las Vegas Wranglers. Just not a good idea at all, and I don’t even know why I’m showing it.
Saw the last period of the Washington-Pittsburgh game last night on a giant TV at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas with everyone watching in easy chairs. The curious thing was that when Ovechkin scored the winner and added a third goal, most everyone cheered like crazy. So it seems that Washington is the favourite team, at least in this series, on the Vegas strip. Except for the guy beside me who had about six empty shooter glasses and a handful of empty beer bottles, and couldn’t look at the screen as time wound down.
Then went to game 5 of the Las Vegas Wranglers-Stockton Thunder series with 5300 wild and crazy fans in the building, and Vegas won 4-2 in a great game that had everyone delirious with joy. Las Vegas seems to be a surprisingly knowledgable hockey city. Of course though, everyone’s from somewhere else, which kind of explains it.
Yes, it’s blistering hot in Las Vegas, at least for me. Thirty celsius is blistering, isn’t it? So what does a good Habs fan do now that the team is finished and it’s so damn hot? Go to a hockey game, that’s what. A good, old fashioned ECHL game 2 Pacific Division final between the Las Vegas Wranglers and Stockton Thunder at the friendly confines of the Orleans Arena, just off the Vegas Strip behind the Orleans Casino.
Las Vegas Wranglers are an affiliate of the Calgary Flames, while Stockton belongs to Edmonton, and both have strong ideas about reaching the ultimate goal, the Kelly Cup. The winner of this series plays the winner of Alaska-Victoria for the right to advance to the big showdown. Montreal’s team in the ECHL, the Cincinnati Cyclones, are still alive and going at it in the east.
Las Vegas has had some problems lately, blowing four, two-goal, first period leads in their playoff run this year, including game one of this series. So blowing leads needed to be corrected, and this little problem, along with seeing what hockey atmosphere is like here, made it interesting and curious for me as I readied to go to the game. How would the Wranglers play, I wondered.
How would they? They played great. They took it to a smallish yet fast Stockton team before 2800 noisy and playful Vegas fans, and came away with a 4-2 win to even this series at one apiece. There were a couple of fights, three Vegas power play goals, and this night was fun, fun, fun. The only unsettling thing was the orange and black colours of the Thunder, for all the obvious reasons. And no, I don’t mean Pittsburgh.
The smallest played on the ice was Wrangler forward Tyler Mosienko, who is non-other than the grandson of Chicago Hall of Famer Bill Mosienko . Bill Mosienko was not only a great player, but also pulled off some magic one night in particular when he scored an incredible three goals in 21 seconds.
Playing for Stockton is a fellow named Cleve Kinley. Amazingly, I met this guy when he was about eleven years old. He’s from Powell River where I live, and about ten years ago when I had a small restaurant there, his parents, who I know slightly, used to bring little Cleve in to eat because the restaurant served all ages. Cleve got bigger and played for the BCHL Powell River Kings, then I never heard from him again. Until tonight.
When the NHL decides to expand once again, it certainly won’t be Winnipeg, Quebec, Toronto, or Hamilton, or in general, places where people understand that ice is also for skating on, not just putting up noses. It’ll be where Gary Bettman wants it to be, and that means no Canada.
And right now, it seems that the leading contender for new team in the NHL is Las Vegas, which, I think, could be the next best thing if you can’t have a Canadian franchise.
Each year, Sin City attracts 40 million tourists to the bright lights, a million and a half of which are Canadian, and two million from overseas, which indeed includes countries like Russia, Sweden, and Finland – countries who appreciate hockey. And with staggering numbers like that, especially the 40 million part, you’d have to think that 20,000 would be found to go to games each night.
There is a team in the ECHL based now in Vegas, the Wranglers, who pull in about 4000 fans a game. So hockey isn’t exactly foreign there. And there’s lots of people, guys especially, who would prefer to see the Habs or Penguins come to town instead of forking out $150 for Cher or Bette Midler at Caesar’s Palace.
Hockey would be a nice three-hour break from the Strip. And when they get out of the game, they wouldn’t have to worry about missing anything because this is a city that carries on 24 hours a day. You can lose your money any time of the day or night, no problem.
So it boils down to this. You go on a nice four-day vacation to Las Vegas, spend some time at the hotel pool, check out a bunch of different casinos, stuff yourself at a buffet, go to a hockey game while your wife’s at the Cher show, meet up with her afterward, go back to the casinos and win a couple of bucks, take in a free lounge show, then call it a night because it’s now three in the morning and you had no idea.
Does it get any better than that?