Golden Knights owner Bill Foley gives thanks for Las Vegas’ team

Updated November 22, 2017 - 6:21 pm

The final minutes were ticking away. Victory was assured. An emotional evening was concluding in a satisfactory manner for the home team.

But there was still one last episode to play itself out.

The sing-song chant began from the upper reaches of T-Mobile Arena and permeated down to the expensive seats by the glass.

‘Thank you Foley.”

It got louder with each go-round.

‘THANK YOU FOLEY.”

Bill Foley claims he never heard it, even though he was in the building. He said he was too focused on watching the team he owns, the Golden Knights, put the finishing touches on a 5-2 win over Arizona.

“That was very nice,” he said. “I get that a lot. People come up to me and thank me for bringing the Golden Knights to Las Vegas.”

Yet on this Thanksgiving Day it is Foley, the billionaire businessman who spent a record $500 million in 2016 to bring major league professional sports to Las Vegas, who has much to be thankful for.

His team has been the talk of the NHL thanks to its successful start. He has an energized fan base that embraced players, coaches and management from the start.

But there’s more. Much more.

When the Oct. 1 mass shooting unfolded on the Strip, leaving 58 dead and close to 500 wounded, the Knights organization didn’t lose anyone. Earlier that day, the wildfires sweeping through Northern California roared perilously close to Foley’s vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. Incredibly, his wineries went unscathed, and of his 600 employees, only one lost his home.

Galvanized by tragic events

Foley said when he looks back on those tragic events and the fact nobody died and he was spared any significant loss property, it makes Thanksgiving that much more meaningful.

“It could have been a hell of a lot worse,” he said. “I’m still trying to understand why (the shootings happened). I was already in bed when it started, and after I found out, I wanted to make sure all our people were accounted for.

“When I heard everyone was safe, it was a tremendous relief. But I also knew we were going to have to make some major changes.”

Foley was referring to the elaborate pregame celebration that had been planned for the team’s home opener Oct. 10. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was coming. So were local and state officials and a list of celebrities. But Foley knew those plans would have to be shelved.

Instead, the team began planning a different ceremony, one more somber, more muted, more respectful, one that would honor the victims and show appreciation for the first responders and heroes of Oct. 1.

“A lot of people worked really hard to make that happen,” Foley said of his staff. “There wasn’t a whole lot of time, but they did an amazing job.”

The ceremony, which saw players and coaches escort first responders to the ice, included 58 seconds of silence for the victims, whose names were shown on the ice.

It was capped by defenseman Deryk Engelland’s stirring, emotional speech that concluded with four simple words — “We are Vegas Strong” — and is already etched in team history.

“I’ll always remember Deryk’s speech,” Foley said when asked to reflect back on Oct. 10. “He did a great job. I know he was really nervous. Who wouldn’t be? But he pulled it off.

“And the way our players and coaches interacted with the first responders was so special. I thought the whole evening was perfect.”

‘We got lucky’

Meanwhile, the wildfires were growing stronger. The firefighters were locked in a deadly battle to contain the flames that were scorching millions of acres and causing billions of dollars in damage. For Foley, who has had a successful venture creating quality vintages that are world renowned, there was major cause for concern.

“We have about 4,000 acres of all our wineries, and it’s a miracle we weren’t hit by the fires,” he said. “It just went around our properties. It missed Chalk Hill by three-quarters of a mile. We got lucky.”

Foley said he has friends who weren’t so lucky and lost everything. One couple escaped literally seconds before flames engulfed their home, fleeing in their pajamas and driving away.

Through the team’s charitable foundations, various jersey auctions and the nightly 51/49 raffle, Foley donated close to $2 million in a five-week span to the Strip shooting victims fund, the Metropolitan Police Foundation and to assist those who were impacted by the Northern California wildfires along with the Folded Flag Foundation.

Joy of winning

When Foley, his family and a small select group of friends sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, they’ll also be thankful that his hockey team has started so well.

Expansion is a dicey proposition. And even with the NHL having given Foley’s organization every chance to succeed, it was up to them to make it work.

Yes, there were a few hiccups along the way. The team name took a while for some to accept. The jerseys that fans would spend $200 on wouldn’t be available until late September. The television deal with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (formerly ROOT Sports) nearly became a debacle until a 12th-hour deal was struck with Cox Cable just hours before the season opener Oct. 6 in Dallas.

Yet all of that has been trumped by the team’s amazing start, which saw it go 8-1 and find itself the talk of the hockey world. The word playoffs has entered the vernacular.

“All credit goes to (general manager George McPhee) and his people, our players and coaches,” Foley said. “I really believe in the Knight culture of being noble, fearless, never retreating, and George bought into that culture. We have players of high character who work hard every night and never give up.

“I was hoping we could have some success early and keep our fans happy. But it’s more than what I thought it would be.”

A superstitious owner

Foley doesn’t even watch the home games from his luxurious rinkside suite at T-Mobile Arena. He prefers to observe alongside McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon higher up in the building.

“My focus is on every shift,” he said. “I can’t socialize with people during the game. I’m too involved watching what’s going on out on the ice.”

His wife Carol is the same way. She doesn’t play hostess on game night. She’s wrapped up in the game, riding the emotional roller coaster along with 17,000-plus fans.

“I wear the same jacket every game, sit in the same seat next to George and drink the same water every game,” Foley said of his superstitious routine.

‘Most fun ever’

Foley, the majority owner who has 81 percent of the Knights, kiddingly calls himself “a benevolent dictator.” The Maloof family, which has 9 percent of the team, and several minority owners who comprise the remaining 10 percent of ownership, are strictly in the background. They don’t travel with the team. You don’t see them in the locker room. Only Foley speaks for the group.

“I wouldn’t be involved otherwise,” he said.

But when Foley attends the NHL Board of Governors meetings, he is the silent one.

“Basically, I sit, keep my mouth shut and listen to what Gary has to say,” said Foley, who has attended only one meeting so far.

He saves his enthusiasm and energy for game night. He said he is thrilled for the organization’s start and appreciative of the hard work his employees have put in to make the Knights a successful endeavor. But he is most pleased for Las Vegas.

“I’m happiest for the city and the fans,” he said. “This isn’t about me. It’s about giving the city something to get behind, something to root for.

“When I see the fans wearing the jerseys, the kids having fun, the in-game experience we’re providing, that’s what makes me happy. For me, the games are exhausting. I’m so emotionally involved. But it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

Golden Knights Videos
Mike Kelly talks on Feb. 19
The Golden Knights assistant coach discussed injuries and the “dog days” of the season.
Golden Knights Lose Momentum on the Road, Fall 3-0 to Colorado - VIDEO
The Golden Knights were unable to take the momentum from the recent 5-1 win over the Predators on the road, and fell to the Avalanche 3-0. This is just the second time this season the Golden Knights have been shut out by an opponent.
Golden Knights Break Losing Streak At Home - VIDEO
The Golden Knights break their home losing streak and beat the Nashville Predators 5-1 with Subban at net.
Golden Knights snap losing streak, defeat Nashville 5-1
The Vegas Golden Knights snapped a 5-game losing skid when they defeated the Nashville Predators at home, 5-1. Head coach Gerard Gallant and players discuss the win at the T-Mobile Arena.
Golden Edge: The Golden Knights Lose Their Fifth Straight at Home
For the first time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights lost their fifth straight game at home. This time they fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6 to 3. Video produced by Heidi Fang
Golden Knights on what they need to end losing streak - VIDEO
After suffering their fifth consecutive home loss, the Vegas Golden Knights talk about what went wrong against the Toronto Maple Leafs and what the team needs to end its losing streak. Video produced by Heidi Fang
Gallant Talks Improving Knights Game After Fourth Straight Home Loss - VIDEO
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant talks to media after practice about what the team needs to improve on in order to win at home against the Maple Leafs.
Golden Knights ready to celebrate Valentine's Day
Even though they have a game on Feb. 14, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves are ready to spoil the ones they love this Valentine's Day.
Gallant Ramps Up Golden Knights Practice - VIDEO
Gerard Gallant ramps up practice for the Golden Knights as they have suffered four straight losses at home.
Golden Knights Fall to Coyotes for Fourth Straight Home Loss - Video
The Golden Knights lose their fourth straight game at home with a 5-2 loss against the Coyotes. After the game, head coach Gerard Gallant spoke with players after the game in the locker room. Golden Knights reporters Adam Hill and Ben Gotz go over the loss and what the players said after the game.
Gallant delivers scathing response to media following the team's loss - VIDEO
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant was furious following the team's loss to the Arizona Coyotes and gave a scathing response to a question asked during his postgame news conference. The loss marks the team's fourth straight loss at home, which ties the franchise record.
Golden Edge Mailbag - February 12, 2019 - VIDEO
Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer all your burning VGK questions and comments here on the Golden Edge Mailbag
Gerard Gallant Talks About Trade Deadline - VIDEO
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant responds to a question about the trade deadline and what it means for the team.
Golden Knights Practice Before Game With Coyotes - VIDEO
The Golden Knights skate on the ice a day before their game with the Arizona Coyotes while the trade deadline comes closer. Golden Knights reporters Ben Gotz and David Schoen go over what to expect from the Knights before trade deadline and William Carrier's return to the ice.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights lose their third straight at home
Adam Hill and Ben Gotz recap the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets and talk about the team losing their third straight home game.
Gallant, Golden Knights players reflect on their loss to the Blue Jackets
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant says what went wrong against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the players assess their performances and the team's mental state at this point in the season.
Gallant talks about losing streak
Gerard Gallant talks about breaking a four-game losing streak. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on finishing road trip
Gerard Gallant talks about finishing the road trip on a high note. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant talks about the win over Detroit
Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about the 4-3 win over Detroit on Feb. 7, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights End Road Trip With A Win Over Red Wings, 4-3 - VIDEO
The Golden Knights ended the team's four-game road trip with a win in Detroit, defeating the Red Wings 4-3.
Gallant on Karlsson
Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about William Karlsson. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Break Four Game Losing Streak - VIDEO
The Golden Knights win with a comeback victory and Tuch scoring the only goal during a shootout. Golden Knights reporters David Schoen and Adam Hill break down the game including Ryan Carpenter being escorted off the ice after hitting his head.
Gallant on breaking the losing streak
Gerard Gallant talks about breaking a four-game losing streak agains one the NHL's best teams. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on Valentin Zykov's goal
Gerard Gallant talks about Valentin Zykov's goal against Tampa Bay on Feb. 5, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-journal)
Gallant on penalty killing
Gerard Gallant talks about the Golden Knights' penalty killing against Tampa Bay on Feb. 5, 2019. (Davis Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge Mailbag: Defense Problems? - VIDEO
Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer all the burning questions about the Golden Knights.
Gerard Gallant on facing Tampa Bay
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on Valentin Zykov
Golden Knight coach Gerard Gallant talks about Valentin Zykov. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on next game after loss to Panthers
Coach Gerard Gallant talks to reporters after Knights loss to Panthers. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on big plays hurting Knights in loss to Panthers
Coach Gerard Gallant talks to reporters after Knights loss to Panthers. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on breakaway goals in loss to Panthers
Coach Gerard Gallant speaks to media after Knights loss to Panthers. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on loss to Panthers
Coach Gerard Gallent speaks about Knights loss to Panthers. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Maxime Lagace talks about the loss to Carolina
Golden Knights goaltender Maxime Lagace talks about the 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 1, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant talks about the loss to Carolina
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about the 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 1, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights' prospect Cody Glass talks about his development
Golden Knights' prospect Cody Glass talks about his development and working to gain a spot in the NHL. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights' prospect Cody Glass talks about the NHL
Golden Knights' prospect Cody Glass talks about pushing for a roster spot in the NHL. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves On Fighting In Hockey - VIDEO
Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves goes over how he fights in hockey and how he scouts out his opponents before games.
Golden Edge Mailbag: Did Bellemare Bite P.K. Subban? - VIDEO
Ben Gotz and Adam Hill answer all the burning questions about the Golden Knights including if Bellemare bit P.K. Subban's hand.
Fleury on boos at NHL All-Star game
Fleury at NHL All-Star game (pokecheck)
Fleury about scooter at NHL All-Star game
scooter incident
Fleury on NHL All-Star game atmosphere
NHL Commissioner Talks Player Tracking Success with Golden Knights - VIDEO
Ahead of the NHL All-Star game, commissioner Gary Bettman discusses how the league implemented player tracking during two Golden Knights games and how the Knights have been a positive impact on hockey.
Subban says Bellemare knows he bit him
Vegas Golden Knights assistant head coach Mike Kelly, right wing Ryan Reaves and Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban tell their sides of the alleged finger biting incident that occurred between Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Subban late in the second period of their game at the T-Mobile Arena.
Golden Knights Fall To Predators, Bellemare Bites P.K. Subban? - VIDEO
The Golden Knights lose 2-1 against the Predators and suffer two straight losses at home and a bizarre end to a second period between Bellemare and P.K. Subban. Golden Knights reporters Ben Gotz and Adam Hill go over the loss and Bellemare's alleged bite.
Golden Knights recap their loss to the Predators
The Vegas Golden Knights speak on their most recent loss to the Nashville Predators, the team's slump in momentum and their mindset as they head into the NHL All-Star break.
Real Estate Millions: Jonathan Marchessault
Vegas Golden Knight Jonathan Marchessault, shows off his Summerlin home.
HyperX Esports Arena hosts "VGK Twitch" event
Vegas Golden Knights players Alex Tuch, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula attended the “VGK Twitch” event at HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor hotel-casino on Tuesday. The players battled fans and each other at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the members of the Blue Man Group made an appearance as well.
Golden Edge Mailbag: Nick Holden
Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden takes your questions on our Golden Edge mailbag!
Golden Knights' McPhee, Gallant on trading Brad Hunt to the Wild
Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant addressed trading Brad Hunt to the Minnesota Wild at a news conference on Tuesday.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Fall for the Third Time in Five Games
The Vegas Golden Knights lose to the Minnesota Wild 4-2. Dave Schoen, Adam Hill, and Ben Gotz report from T-Mobile Arena.
Golden Knights after their loss to the Wild
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant says the team needs to be tougher in certain areas and the players assess their loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Gallant: The Wild had our number last year
Head coach Gerard Gallant says the Minnesota Wild had the Golden Knights number last year. Tuch talks about the playoff hopes of the Golden Knights and Schmidt chimes in on team's tenacity.
Golden Edge recap: Golden Knights vs. Penguins
Review-Journal reporters Ben Gotz and David Schoen discuss the Golden Knights’ 7-3 win over the Penguins at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
Gerard Gallant talks new tech
The Golden Knights coach discussed the new iPad technology expected to be available to coaches after the All-Star break.
Gerard Gallant talks after practice Jan. 18
The Golden Knights coach talked about the team’s upcoming three-game stretch, injuries and the power play.
Gallant: Knights played a 'good game' vs. Winnipeg
Gerard Gallant says the Knights played a good game in the loss to Winnipeg on Jan. 15, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gallant on Golden Knights power play
Gerard Gallant talks about the Golden Knight power play vs. Winnipeg on Jan. 15, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on loss to Winnipeg
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about the team's loss to Winnipeg on Jan. 15, 2019. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant on Winnipeg
Gerard Gallant talks about continuing to play good hockey in Winnipeg. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing