This fall, Sky Condos Las Vegas tenants will have a new neighbor: the Vegas Golden Knights. The brand-new National Hockey League expansion team will be moving into T-Mobile Arena, right next door. The Knights will be the first-ever major-league sports team to call Sin City home.
The NHL has been around for 100 years, but for many in Las Vegas, hockey will be as foreign as a polar bear in the desert. Here’s what you need to know about your next favorite sport and hometown team.
On June 17, the NHL’s 30 established teams will submit their protection lists to the league and your Vegas Golden Knights will begin to take shape. General manager George McPhee and his staff will review the available players and submit their selections on June 20. The next day, you’ll meet your team for the first time.
The Knights will select a total of 30 players — one from each team. They’ll need a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies, plus four extra players of any position.
(Building an NHL team from scratch is no easy task. Step into McPhee’s shoes with this Golden Knights mock expansion draft tool.)
Your first NHL game
In October, you’ll get to see your new neighbors in action. The Knights are one of eight teams in the NHL’s Pacific Division, and will play the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, and Los Angeles Kings often. Hockey rivalries can be fierce, so expect a raucous crowd when these teams come to town.
The playing surface is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide and encircled by a ring of fibreglass boards and plexiglass. The ice is ¾ of an inch thick and chilled to about 16°F. (The arena must be kept at a low temperature to preserve the ice’s integrity, so you may want to bring a light jacket.)
Rules of the Game
The basic rules of hockey are simple: score more goals than your opponent and you win! But like any sport, the finer points of the game require some explanation. The NHL Official Rules provide a detailed breakdown of how the game is played, but here’s a quick primer to get you started:
Both teams start the game at even strength with six players on the ice. Each team has three forwards — a left winger, a center, and a right winger — two defensemen, and one goalie. Teams are allowed to dress 18 skaters and two goalies per game. Forwards typically play together in three-man groups called lines and defensemen in two-man pairings. Players can be substituted during stoppages and during play. This is called changing on the fly.
A standard NHL game is 60 minutes of regulation time divided into three 20-minute periods. If the score is tied after 60 minutes, both teams will play a five-minute sudden-death overtime period with three skaters per side. The first team to score wins. If the score is still tied, the game moves to a shootout in which a single skater tries to score on the opposing goalie.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, the rules are a little different: Instead of five minutes of three-on-three and shootouts, playoff games keep going until someone scores. The longest game in NHL history required nearly six full 20-minute overtime periods to resolve!
The ice is divided into three areas separated by colored lines. The neutral zone is in the middle, between the two blue lines and divided by a thick red line. Each team defends a goal 48 inches tall and 72 inches wide at the end of their defensive zone and attempts to carry the puck into their opponent’s end (their offensive zone) to score.
At the start of each period, play begins at center ice with a faceoff, in which the referee drops the puck between the opposing centers, who attempt to gain possession of it by passing it to their teammates with their sticks. Players are only allowed to pass or carry the puck with their sticks. Faceoffs occur to restart the game at the beginning of each period, after each goal, and after penalties, icings, and offside calls.
Most goals are scored by propelling the puck into the net with a stick. Goals that bounce in off of players’ bodies and skates (deflections) are allowed. Goals that are deliberately kicked in or batted into the net with a stick held above the goal’s horizontal crossbar are illegal. The puck must completely cross the goal line to count.
Icing and offside
These are among the trickiest rules in hockey to explain. If a team shoots the puck from its side of the center-ice red line all the way down the ice past its opponents’ goal line and doesn’t recover it first, they will be called for icing and will have to win it back from a faceoff in their own zone.
A player is offside when he precedes the puck into the attacking zone. He can tag up by crossing back over the offensive blue line and re-entering the zone, but if he touches the puck without tagging up, the referee will stop play and call for a faceoff in the neutral zone.
Penalties, power plays and penalty kills
Hockey is an exciting, fast-paced collision sport that blends the speed of basketball with the ferocity of football. Players are allowed to separate one another from the puck through body-checking, which occasionally results in fights. (Note: Most body-checks are legal; fighting is not.)
Most rule breaking is punished with a two-minute minor penalty, while more severe infractions earn penalties of four, five, and even ten minutes. A player who receives a game misconduct is kicked out of the game.
When a player is sent off, he goes to the penalty box his team must kill the penalty and play a man down (shorthanded) until his time is served. The opposing team is awarded a power play and has a greater chance to score. The penalized player cannot leave the penalty box until the opposing team scores or his penalty expires.
If you have trouble following the game at first, don’t worry. The details will come, and the enthusiasm of fans like you will make a night of Las Vegas hockey a must-do event. Best advice: Keep your eye on the puck; wherever it goes, the action will follow.