Hockey history in Las Vegas has had a long road starting back in 1968 with the formation of the Las Vegas Gamblers, a semi pro-team. Several other minor league and semi pro-teams called Las Vegas home. The two that lasted the longest were the Las Vegas Thunder (6 years) of the International Hockey League and the Las Vegas Wranglers (11 years), of the ECHL. Both teams had great runs and made the playoffs several times but neither was able to win their league championships. The Wranglers twice made it to the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals but the Thunder never did.
While several semi pro teams have called Las Vegas home, most didn’t last past about five years but they did give fans something to see. Junior hockey even had a presence in Sin City, but like the semi-pro teams never lasted long. The current junior team the Las Vegas Storm–member of the Western States Hockey League–has been in Vegas for three seasons so far. They won the Thorne Cup Championship in their second season.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has been working on getting their club team, the Rebels, up to Division 1 status. They are currently in the top tier of the club hockey ranks, having joined the Mountain West Collegiate Hockey league, a Division 2 league at the start of the 2015-16 season. They are trying to build up talent so that they can join Arizona State as the second team on the west coast outside of Alaska to become a Division1 team.
In 2016 Las Vegas got awarded an NHL team–the Vegas Golden Knights. Not a name that perhaps represents Las Vegas but that is what the owner wanted. They haven’t played a game yet but are already trying to leave their mark on the city. A youth program called the Junior Golden Knights has already had tryouts and has several teams formed. They plan on playing out of all the rinks in town so that they can grow the game.
Las Vegas is a town that hasn’t had a big sports championship since the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won the men’s basketball tournament in 1990. Can the Golden Knights provide this? That is yet to be seen but the owner has claimed he will bring one to town. Owners do like making that claim but find that it is often more difficult to fulfill that promise than originally expected.
A new chapter in Las Vegas hockey history will begin this fall. The team will announce it’s expansion draft selections on June 21, 2017, the same night as the NHL Awards.