“It’s been a long time coming for the market and the community,” said Zucker, the fifth-year Minnesota Wild forward. “I’m obviously a big fan of Las Vegas getting professional sports, and I think it’s going to be great.”
Zucker, who scored 13 goals and had 23 points in 71 games this past season, said people in the hockey world will be surprised how savvy Las Vegas fans are.
“Las Vegas has some amazing fans,” he said. “People just don’t know about it yet.”
Playing in Minnesota, where youth hockey and high school hockey are huge elements of the community, Zucker appreciates what it means to have grass-roots support for the sport. There’s the chance to develop hometown talent and cultivate the next generation of hockey fans.
“I would love to see the kids from Vegas get a chance to compete at a high level,” said Zucker, who left Las Vegas when he was 11 to play against better competition. “There’s a lot of skilled players coming out of Las Vegas each year, and the coaching is very good.”
Las Vegas team owner Bill Foley has said he wants to build rinks all across the valley. Zucker hopes Foley keeps his word. But more important, he hopes those rinks will be filled with hockey players learning the game and developing their skills.
“It’s one thing to build the rinks,” Zucker said. “But the key is to get the kids in the rinks playing.”
Zucker, 23, is a restricted free agent but expected to re-sign with Minnesota, with whom he has 42 goals and 61 points in 169 games.
If he’s still with the Wild in the 2017-18 season, when Las Vegas begins play, he would be in enemy territory at T-Mobile Arena.
He’s hoping Las Vegas fans would embrace his return.
“I sure hope so,” said Zucker, who spends his offseasons in Las Vegas working hockey camps. “I’m proud to be from Las Vegas, and I believe hockey’s going to grow in Vegas with or without me. The support is there for it to be a success.”
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj
NHL in Vegas