In their very first year of existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are headed to the Stanley Cup Final. They beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in the Western Conference Finals to continue this most unexpected run. The greatest expansion team in the history of American sports has made playoff success look easy, and the Knights have lost only three times total throughout the postseason. That’s a crying shame, because the truncated series have resulted in fewer games in Las Vegas, which is home to the most endearingly bonkers pre-game ceremony you will ever see.
Before players skated onto the T-Mobile Arena ice for Game 3 against Winnipeg last week, fans were treated to archery, an illuminated drum squad, pyrotechnics, Lord of the Rings-style voice overs, flying knights in full suits of armor, and a virtual fighter jet. It was enthralling, and a little much.
For Game 4, the team invited Wayne Newton to crank the horn, and he provided some thrills in his own unique way.
Las Vegas is home to countless overblown stage shows, so the Knights’ pre-game ceremony fits right in. However, there is something lovingly ad hoc about it all, like the most enthusiastic dinner theater performance of Camelot southern Nevada has ever seen. A recent New York Times story about the team’s entertainment producers mentions that the bow and arrow for the show were purchased at a local Bass Pro Shops outlet, and material for the simulated flames came from Hobby Lobby.
Of course, no one thought they’d actually be putting on pre-game performances come late May. The Knights were a 500-1 long shot to win the Stanley Cup at the start of the season, and they’ve made oddsmakers—and the rest of the NHL—look pretty silly since then.
Vegas will play either the Washington Capitals or the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, depending how those teams’ series shakes out. Personally, I’m pulling for a Capitals victory, but that’s just because I’ve always wanted to see a knight fight a municipality acting as its nation’s seat of government. Either way, let’s hope it goes the distance—we need to see as many Vegas pre-game shows as possible.