Livescore Thursday, April 25

As it turns out, Elvis never really left the building. In fact, he turned up often this season in the locker room of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Some teams honor players’ outstanding performances by giving them a replica of a boxing championship belt. Others award a sombrero or a cowboy hat. The Golden Knights, whose victory song is “Viva Las Vegas,” give key players an outrageously glossy Elvis wig and sunglasses.

For the Golden Knights, whose wonderfully over-the-top entertainment at T-Mobile Arena features knights in armor, Elvis impersonators and showgirls wearing team-themed headdresses but not much else, bonding over Elvis Presley — or a funny facsimile — makes perfect sense.

“Elvis is a pretty good representative of Vegas,” said forward Jack Eichel, who came up with the idea. “It’s always cool if you have something to wear, I think. I think it fit our group.”

It fits down to the last spangle on the jumpsuit of every self-respecting wannabe Elvis. “It’s Vegas. I don’t think I have to say anything else,” former King Alec Martinez said of the spectacle at home games. “I mean, Vegas, that’s exactly what you think of. The dancers, Elvis, loud music, gambling, people losing their dignity.”

Las Vegas loves glitz and glamour. It also loves the Golden Knights, who joined the NHL in 2017 and capitalized on generous expansion terms and clever maneuvering by then-general manager George McPhee to reach the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

They lost to Washington in five games, but they can win the gleaming silver trophy on home ice Tuesday if they close out the Florida Panthers in Game 5. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who trailed Detroit 3-0, have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Final. The plucky Panthers, who barely made the playoffs in the East before upsetting Boston, might be too banged up to muster one more big rally.

The atmosphere Tuesday will be crazy. More precisely, crazier than ever.

“It’s going to be loud in there. It always is. So it will be even higher, I assume,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday, a travel day for both teams. “I imagine there will be a lot more stuff going on outside the building than before. There’s a lot of that when a team is on the cusp. That’s just the way it is, and should be.

“I think the fans should celebrate, or be prepared to celebrate. It’s up to us to get the job done, obviously. Florida is a huge obstacle in our way to do that. … But the fans should enjoy their moment, be prepared for it. They’ve been behind this team for six years now, a real solid fan base, and we should embrace that part of it.”

People in Las Vegas are accustomed to seeing celebrities in casinos, nightclubs and showrooms, but few stars shine as brightly as the Cup. It will be in the building Tuesday, tucked away in its travel case until someone records that fourth win.

“Everybody knows what’s going to be there,” said Vegas forward Chandler Stephenson, who scored twice Saturday in the 3-2 victory that put his team in position to clinch. “You just try to play. That’s kind of the biggest thing. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of everything. I think being at home too, the fans, everybody is going to be into it.”

Imagine the parties if the Golden Knights prevail. A victory parade along the famous Strip could be epic.

The Golden Knights were the first professional major-league team to settle in Las Vegas, and they triggered a sports boom. They’ve been followed by the Raiders, who arrived in 2020, and the 2022 WNBA champion Aces.

The Oakland Athletics announced plans to move here, changed those plans, then changed the changes. Disagreements over how much taxpayer money they’d get for a new stadium and where they’d play have put the whole thing in jeopardy.

UFC opened its massive headquarters in Las Vegas in 2017 and has since added an events and production center.

The NBA, which built the Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center into a must-see event, will hold a fan-friendly convention next month at the Mandalay Bay. NBA Con “will bring together the fashion, music, cuisine, art and technology that make the NBA a cultural phenomenon,” according to a league press release.

The NBA has made no promises about moving or expanding here, but league executives clearly are intrigued by the market.

In the meantime, the Golden Knights have established a strong presence. Their logo and gift shops are everywhere around town, and they played to 104% of capacity during the regular season with a fan base deliberately built around local residents rather than corporations or casino-owned seats.

During the pregame show, the public address announcer asks for cheers from different groups in the arena — upper-level sections, lower-level sections, men, women. Martinez said he tunes out most of the noise but the fans’ responses break through. “You do hear that one when they say, ‘Tourists,’ and everyone screams, and when they say, ‘Locals,’ and the whole place erupts. That’s a good indication as to how they feel,” he said.

There are other indications the Golden Knights have built a solid enough foundation to survive a competitive downturn.

“To me, the thing that’s most startling is when you drive around and see the [special] license plates,” said Nate Ewell, the team’s vice president of communications and content. “We just got an update on this: There’s more than 60,000 license plates in the state of Nevada with Golden Knights logos on them. And of course, people have to pay extra for that. … The only one that’s more popular is the ‘Welcome to Vegas’ sign.”

Ewell has worked for the team for about two years, so he wasn’t involved in the initial pregame and in-game entertainment. Being immersed in it now, he gets why it works. “It feels authentic. It feels right to be in the city and have that kind of experience,” he said. “It feels much more overwhelming than you get to see on TV.

“They very intentionally wanted to embrace the city and make sure that we reflected Vegas, we embraced Vegas. We didn’t hide from it. We didn’t say, ‘OK, this is going to be traditional hockey in a different market.’ It’s going to be a different spectacle in a different market.”

Martinez lives a ways from the Strip, near biking and hiking trails. He can dine at a world-class restaurant or see a show and be home in 20 minutes, without sitting in traffic for an hour on the 110 Freeway or 405. “I don’t think you could ask for a better situation,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable place to play.”

Good hockey can coexist with innovative entertainment that hits the right notes. Viva Las Vegas, for the city’s glorious excesses and the Golden Knights creating a nontraditional model for winning hockey.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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