Golden Knights GM confident Las Vegas market will support NHL, Raiders

Work continues Wednesday, March 29, 2017, on the Vegas Golden Knights practice facility in Summerlin. (Chad Graves/KSNV)

“Advice to Raiders? Come in and do the very best you can and put a great product on the field, which is what we're going to try to do,” George McPhee told me Wednesday.

McPhee is the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, the National Hockey League’s 31st franchise and the first major-league team to call Las Vegas home.

Hockey runs in his veins. Not only was he a star player with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, but for 17 years he helmed the Washington Capitals.

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Now he's the Golden Knight’s top executive – the guy Owner Bill Foley picked to lead his team.

So, question, Mr. McPhee: Is Vegas big enough for two pro teams?

“I think the pro teams can co-exist, and if both teams are performing well, we'll be supported well,” he told me, and he would know. As the Capitals’ GM, he led a team in a region stuffed full with pro sports.

“I come from a market in Washington and Baltimore with two NFL teams, two major league baseball teams, basketball, hockey, plus all kinds of colleges,” he says. “If you’re doing well, people will support you.”

In the space of nine months, we scored the ultimate touchdown on Monday when the NFL awarded us the Oakland Raiders.

And it was just last June when the National Hockey League gave Las Vegas an expansion franchise. Suddenly, we're a two-sport town.

“How about that,” ESPN Las Vegas’ Mike Pritchard said to me Wednesday while his radio show was in a commercial break with co-host Mitch Moss. Pritchard says the timing works in both teams’ favor.

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“People here now are going to invest in the Vegas Golden Knights. It's organic. It's our team. They started here,” Pritchard said, which will allow the teams to put down roots before Raider Nation is scheduled to arrive in 2020.

As for the Raiders, they shouldn’t have a problem, either, says Moss.

“Unless they lose 10 games a year for a decade straight, which is not really fathomable right now, I can't foresee that team not having the support,” he says.

The Raiders want to play the next two years in Oakland and then find a temporary site in 2019. City officials in Oakland, understandably jilted and angry, are making noise they may want to kick the Raiders out – now, which possibly could accelerate their Las Vegas landing, perhaps temporarily at UNLV’s Sam Boyd stadium.

In that case, Las Vegas would become a two-pro-sport-town sooner, rather than later.

Meantime, hockey goes first, hitting T-Mobile Arena ice this fall.

In Summerlin, the Golden Knights’ practice facility is taking shape.

“It's kind of neat to be the first team here. We're born and going to be raised here,” says McPhee.

And, hopefully, win here.

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