The other day I posted this question on my personal Twitter account (grog1324). The next day, Clay Travis asked it too. Obviously I don’t think he copied me, he doesn’t know I exist. But the point is that I wasn’t the only one wondering.
I can see both sides, but I’m leaning more towards their success being good for hockey; maybe even good for all sports in general. My initial feeling for it being a bad thing was that it could be seen as a mockery of the history of the NHL. But the more I dwelled on it, my mind slowly changed. I think it’s definitely a good thing.
Hockey is a little different than the other 3 Big 4 sports. In baseball, you have your 8 position players, starting pitchers, relievers. In basketball, you have your starting 5 and a 6th man. In football, 11 on offense, 11 on defense. These are your guys, the guys that will win or lose games for you. They play almost every game, every down, every possession. A star player can carry a team at times.
But hockey? You go 4 lines deep or you sit at home watching someone who can. Pittsburgh has Crosby, Washington has Ovechkin, Chicago has Kane & Toews, etc. But these guys are on the ice for barely 1/3 of the game. In addition, you better have a damned good backup goalie too. Hockey is about finding depth and balance. VGK knew that, they executed perfectly.
The Golden Knights were gifted with Marc-Andre Fleury not being protected by the Penguins. That is arguably the key move they made. Yeah, they filled in their roster with other players whose teams had given up on them. But MAF was their guy this season. For an expansion team, they came out of the gate with talent and experience. This would be extremely difficult in any other sport.
But now, have they set a precedent for the rest of the sporting world? How much pressure do teams like the Sabres, Maple Leafs, and Islanders feel? What about other sports? Are fans of the Browns, Bengals, Reds, Rays, Clippers, Grizzlies, and many others going to bump up their expectations? We should hope so. Competition is what drives all sports fans. Would you really want to see your team win blowouts all the time? I wouldn’t.
So let’s hope they have raised the bar. I’m looking forward to seeing who they face in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, as I’m blogging this poolside in Clearwater, I need to go refill my glass. These pineapple margaritas are pretty good.