Jose Carranza walked through The Park up to the doors of T-Mobile Arena and grabbed the bottom of his Vegas Golden Knights jersey with his thumb and index finger, clutching an Adidas emblem that certified its authenticity.
“It’s finally time, it’s a moment we’ve been waiting for,” Garcia said as he passed through venue security, admiring the white team jersey, with gray, gold and red-striped sleeves and a logo helmet with the letter V in the middle — it cost him $195 at the team’s fan store last week. “We’re here to show that hockey and pro sports belong here in Las Vegas.”
Carranza, 38, was one of about 20,000 fans to pack the area in and around T-Mobile Area before Tuesday’s first-ever regular season home game for the Vegas Golden Knights — a 5-to-2 win against the visiting Arizona Coyotes to move to a perfect 3-0-0 on the season.
Fans lined up by the hundreds at bars and restaurants outside the arena, as early as 4 p.m., preparing for the team’s first regular season home game in its history. Carranza, who attended the game with girlfriend Esther Torres, said he expects the fan support to continue throughout the season.
“This is a community that supports our home team and everything Las Vegas,” Carranza said. “When we’re given the chance, we’ll be there.”
Inside T-Mobile, the sold-out Las Vegas crowd — filled with mostly Golden Knights jerseys and T-shirts with #VegasStrong — brought venue roars to a new height after four first-period goals from the home team. That followed an emotional, 20-minute tribute to the city, which featured heroes and first responders walking alongside Knights players during a pre-game introduction honoring victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history that occurred nine days ago.
Summerlin resident Ken Howard paid $1,100 for four tickets to sit just four rows behind the glass during Tuesday’s home opener. A life-long Las Vegas resident, Howard, 43, sat with wife Rebecca, 41, and children Hannah, 15, and Tristan, 12. He called the pregame tribute “touching” and “well done” and praised the Golden Knights for going advertisement-free on their boards to produce only messages reading “Vegas Strong.”
“It’s seems like they really get it,” Howard said of the local hockey team. “What a way to honor our first responders.”
Attendance was announced at 18,191 for the game, with the average tickets going on popular ticket selling websites, like StubHub and Vivid Seats, from $150 to sit in the upper deck to over $1,500 to sit near the glass. The Las Vegas debut of the valley’s first top-level professional sports team brought both fans and the community together in “a unique way that few events could.”
“I couldn’t believe it until I saw it,” said Henderson resident Jay Schoener, who sat in the upper deck after purchasing a last-second ticket Monday night online. “I’ve honestly been waiting my whole life to see this.”
Outside the arena, bars filled with both local Golden Knights fans and tourists anxious to watch the historic event. Owner Brian McMullan of McMullan’s Irish Pub reported having as many as 360 people in his sold-out bar on hand to at least catch a glimpse of the Knights’ first home game. Another 56 were transported to the game in a party bus offered by the bar.
“It’s a huge deal,” McMullan said. “The mood was unbelievable, and we were suitably impressed.”
“It was something else,” he added. “This is a city that loves hockey.”