About a month or so ago, the offical Facebook page for the Las Vegas hockey team asked users which Pacific Division team should be their new teams rival. After looking through the comments I got a feel for who most people want to be the new clubs main adversary.
The general consensus was that either the Arizona Coyotes or Los Angeles Kings should be Las Vegas’s rival. Both of these teams make sense because of certain factors that are unique to both clubs. The Coyotes are the only other NHL team located in the desert and the meetings between these two could quickly be labeled as ‘the battle for the desert’ or something like that. It would be like when the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning meet, prompting the ‘battle for Florida’. From right out the gate, Vegas could be trying to prove that the desert is there territory and that would create a big rivalry between both team’s and their fan-bases.
Meanwhile, the Kings are, well, you know, the Kings and most teams hate them so a rivalry there would make sense, but Los Angeles actually has history with Vegas. In 1991, Caesars Palace held an outdoor preseason game for the NHL, the first ever in the city. It was a matchup that featured the New York Rangers and, you guessed it, Los Angeles Kings. They were the first professional hockey team to play and win in Sin City and will even return there later this year to play two more preseason games. They will be the first NHL team to play in the T-Mobile Arena and I’m thinking that this history combined with their play style will most likely lead to the club gaining another hated rival when Las Vegas joins the league in 2017-18. After all, every team is territorial about it’s home ice and going up against a great club that has played on your ice before you sounds like the making of some heavy hockey.
While both of those teams make strong cases, could the Sharks sneak in there and become the underdog villains to the newest desert team? It seems unlikely, but rivalries are built on how teams react to playing each other, not just history. San Jose isn’t too physical and their speed won’t burn you, but the team has started to get into others clubs’ heads under the DeBoer regime with their consistent play style. Just look at round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a couple months ago. The Sharks played their own game and didn’t change their plan based on the Kings heavy-hitting play. It got to the Kings and they started taking penalties and got knocked out in five games. If Team Teal continues that style of play, there’s always the chance that Las Vegas’s team get’s frustrated and starts going for hits. Maybe they get a little dirty and one thing leads to another, ending with a full line brawl. That would most likely lead to some bad blood and create a possible rivalry.
Now obviously that’s very hypothetical, especially because Vegas doesn’t even have a team yet (or a name), but the point I’m getting at is that anything can create a rivalry. To quote Michael Fassbender from ‘Prometheus’, “Big things have small beginnings”, and that is what happens with a rivalry. If San Jose is the Pacific’s best team in Vegas’s inaugural season, maybe the new guys play a little harder to show what they’ve got.
So, while the Sharks may not be the front-runner to become the villains of Sin City, anything can happen. All it takes is one hit or goal and we could be seeing all out war similar to Kings vs Sharks matchups.
Who do you think is most likely to become Vegas’s rivals? Sound off below or let me know on Twitter @aidanpucknology!
*Header from the Sharks website