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Las Vegas’ hockey officials ignite Preview crowd with vision of success

The Vegas Golden Knights revved up the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce Preview crowd Tuesday with a vision of the team’s players hoisting the Stanley Cup before a frenzied T-Mobile Arena crowd.

Then, said Knights President Kerry Bubolz, “We wanna have a big-ass party.”

A party — the kind only a place like Las Vegas could stage — would be an appropriate response for winning one of the most revered trophies in professional sports. And as improbable as the lofty goal of winning the Stanley Cup seems for an expansion team that doesn’t have a coach or player signed, the team’s appearance at Preview showed the community it’s already shooting for the big time.

Bubolz and Nehme Abouzeid, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Knights, were the first executives of a major-league sports team to address the chamber’s top annual networking and forecasting event.

About 1,900 people attended the event that included economic forecasts, a glimpse at Southern Nevada’s tech-driven economic development plans and an update on the region’s tourism development strategy.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley also made a surprise appearance onstage to announce the team joining the chamber and to thank the public for the support it has given the team since its improbable bid to become the National Hockey League’s 31st team.

The Golden Knights’ trade-show booth at the Thomas &Mack Center was a center of activity all morning with the team handing out pens, notepads, window decals and brochures explaining full and partial season-ticket packages.

“We’ve got the best booth location on the concourse,” said the team’s Bremdam Wjote, an account executive for ticketing and suites.

The team also offered a packet to local businesses explaining multiple partnership opportunities.

In his Preview presentation, Bubolz, formerly president of business operations for the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers, said the team’s first game is 254 days away and explained how the success of a sports franchise can turn around a city’s confidence in itself.

Bubolz said he lived that type of turnaround in Cleveland, a city with a history of sports futility from its football team, the Browns, its baseball team, the Indians and the Cavaliers — until last year.

A city derided as “the mistake on the lake” with a river that once caught fire because it was so polluted saw a rejuvenation in civic pride when the Cavaliers upset the favored Golden State Warriors for the NBA championship.

Bubolz described the night of Game 7, which was played in Oakland.

“It’s now 3-3 and we’re on the road at Golden State. We’ve got about 12,000 people outside our arena in Cleveland and another 20,000 people inside the arena watching the game on big TV screens. And we win. A community that had all these challenges, all this history, all this negative … all of a sudden, we had all this excitement, all this energy,” he said.

“The number of high-fives and hugs from people I had never seen in my life that night, it was an amazing experience. Something had been lifted and the community’s confidence had changed. That’s how sports can impact a community.”

Bubolz said more than 25,000 people met at Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport to greet the team after the victory, but the plane was late by about two hours.

Why?

The players decided to stop in Las Vegas to party before returning to Cleveland.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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