By ALAN SNEL
On Friday night, it was The Red Menace at T-Mobile Arena — thousands of Detroit Red Wings fans wearing red jerseys with the names of Yzerman and Howe on the back filling seats in the Vegas Golden Knights’ building.
Today, it’s the black and gold of Boston Bruins fans who have donned their throwbacks with a bear in the front and the names like Orr on the back.
Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz told LVSportsBiz.com before today’s game that the invasion of the opponents’ fans is hardly a surprise, especially the fans of Original Six teams such as the Red Wings and Bruins.
Bubolz estimated that 30 percent of Friday’s crowd were Red Wings fans. LVSportsBiz,com estimated Red Wings fans accounted for 33 percent of the crowd.
There are no business plans to try and limit Golden Knights home game tickets from falling into the hands of opponents’ fans, Bubolz said.
The game plan is to win over locals who have emotional allegiances to other NHL teams over time and convert them to Golden Knights fans — or at least have them come to T-Mobile Arena to root for the Knights when their old hometown club is not in Las Vegas, Bubolz said.
“I don’t want to go out of my way to discourage anyone from coming to a game,” Bubolz said. “Over time, that will evolve in our favor.”
Bubolz said the team will use fun promotions such as taking a Golden Knights jersey to a fan wearing an opponent’s jersey during a break in the game.
Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller, a former Boston Bruin, said VGK players understand that fans of the Original Six teams will find their way into the Knights’ home arena. The Red Wings and Bruins fans in T-Mobile Arena did not bother the Golden Knights players Friday and today, Miller said.
“Both of those Orginal Six teams have strong followings wherever they go,” Miller said before the game. But he said the Golden Knights fans are already supplying a formidable backing. “We don’t have to worry about (the opposition fans.)”
The Golden Knights can track secondary market ticket sales on StubHub becasuse StubHub is a team sponsor. That way, the Golden Knights can get a beat on how many home arena tickets are being sold to people outside Las Vegas, Bubolz said.
While the team will not deny a ticket to a fan with a non-Las Vegas zip code, the Golden Knights did have three time windows in the past few monthswhen they gave existing season ticket holders or Nevada residents a headstart to purchase game tickets.
An NHL team in a sunbelt entertainment market that tried to limit sales of tickets to opposition fans was the Nashville Predators, which sold tickets to only fans living in zip codes in the Nashville hockey market. The Preds could not control tickets sold on the secondary market. Bubolz said the Golden Knights will not follow that strategy.
The fact is it’s inevitable that T-Mobile Arena will see opponents’ fans because of the market’s tourism-centric economy where 42 million visitors are spilling into the local market.
“This location brings in lots of outside fans to the area,” said a Bruins fan from Salt Lake City who goes by the name of Damien W. “You will have a lot of support from visiting fans.”
Bruins fans Noel and Donna Fernandez, of Huntington Beach, Cali., said they attend Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks games where there are many Bruins fans filling the seats. That’s just how fan demographics work when Original Six fans visit new sunbelt hockey markets such as LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas, they said.
Bubolz said local Knights fans can learn from the experienced fans from the league’s historic franchises such as the Red Wings, Black Hawks, Maples Leafs and Canadiens when those fans visit T-Mobile Arena.
One Bruins fan, Rene Benoit from Montreal, was having a good time posing for photos with a Golden Knights fan, Joe Rajchel before today’s game.
“We could be friends,” Benoit told Rajchel, “but on the ice that’s a different thing.”
Rajchel said there’s only so much the Golden Knights can do to determine who buys tickets to attend games at T-Mobile Arena.
“You can’t control what a season ticketholder does with tickets,” Rajchel said. “The day the Knights really start winning, that will stop. This town loves a winner.”
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com