Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

How Golden Knights disrupted the NHL, won the Stanley Cup

by: Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

The first time Brayden McNabb thought about the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup was when owner Bill Foley spoke it into existence in Year 1.

“Playoffs in three. Cup in six,” the defenseman said with a grin, recalling the owner’s words back in 2017.

Then the Golden Knights went ahead and made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2017-18.

“After we did that, Bill said, ‘OK, now Stanley Cup in three.’ I don’t know if that got published,” forward Reilly Smith said.

From one perspective, it was an understandable goal from an enthusiastic new owner. From another, Foley’s timeline was completely bonkers.

There had been only six franchises in NHL history that required six or fewer seasons to win their first Stanley Cup. Five of them won between the birth of the NHL and the repeal of prohibition in the U.S. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first in 1918, when they were the Toronto Arenas. The O.G. Ottawa Senators (1920, third season), Montreal Maroons (1926, second season), New York Rangers (1928, second season) and Boston Bruins (1929, third season) would follow.

The other team was the 1984 Edmonton Oilers, winning in the franchise’s fifth NHL season. But the Oilers actually started as a franchise in 1972; they just didn’t arrive in the NHL until after the World Hockey Association folded. Also, they had Wayne Gretzky.

But it’s not so bonkers now, after seeing the Golden Knights skate hockey’s holy grail in front of their euphoric fans Tuesday night.

“I think the first year we got scared of losing it. And now we wanted to win it,” forward William Carrier said. “We’ve been through a lot the last couple years. We’ve been through it all.”

The Golden Knights have packed a lot into six seasons of existence, after entering the NHL as its 31st team in 2017. They are, essentially, hockey’s great startup company. A collection of misfits that created instant success and then faced the mounting pressure to grow from those carefree days into a thriving, sustainable company with 10 times growth.

It got real. Hearts were broken. Friendships were severed as beloved founders were bid farewell.

“It sucks. It’s happened a lot here,” McNabb said. “But give them credit. They’re doing whatever they can to try and win.”


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