He called it the standard more than once. Repeated the mantra during those early days leading up to the expansion season and beyond: Playoffs in three; Cup in six.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has never shied away from grandiose expectations, not from the minute Las Vegas was awarded its first major league professional sports franchise.
And now, the team might actually meet the biggest of them in, yes, Season Six.
The Knights face the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final, with Games 1 and 2 on Saturday and Monday at T-Mobile Arena.
Foley’s dream of lifting the Cup nearly came true in that inaugural season of 2017-18, the Knights advancing to the final before losing to the Washington Capitals in five games.
His prediction dates as far back as February 2016:
“I don’t think it’s quick at all. Playoffs in three; Cup in six. Period, no excuses, that’s the standard. I consider that being very patient.”
He would say it again later that year, on the night — right around 6:17 p.m. — the Golden Knights and their logo were born to a raucous gathering outside T-Mobile Arena five months to the day from the NHL granting Foley his franchise.
What you might not remember: Foley wanted to name his team the Black Knights after the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He is an Army graduate who exists within the structure of such uniformity and holds dear those standards he came to embrace as a member of The Long Gray Line. But trademarks can be tricky to overcome.
“We got the next best thing,” Foley would say that evening. “Knights are the protectors, the epitome of the warrior class. They’re team-orientated. They never give up. They never give in. Hockey players are warriors. They always have been. That’s us. That’s what we will be.”
It was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — predictably booed loudly at the ceremony — who told the estimated 5,000 fans in attendance that 2016 evening that they could also boo him when he was one day in Las Vegas to present Foley’s team the Stanley Cup.
Then a loud cheer broke out.
The Knights have made the playoffs in five of their six seasons, the only blemish coming last year, when 500 man games lost to injury couldn’t be overcome with a postseason berth. But things turned around this season under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, the Knights winning the Pacific Division and earning the top seed in the Western Conference.
It seems like forever ago and it doesn’t, that time when the Knights became the first NHL team to win eight of its first nine games in its inaugural season. That first playoff appearance. That advancement to the Stanley Cup Final.
That night when a nickname and logo were born to a raucous gathering outside T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s the most unique thing I have ever seen,” George McPhee, then the team’s general manager and now its president of hockey operations, said at the time. “Something special is going on here, and it’s resonating pretty quickly.”
Quicker than you can say Cup in six?
We’ll see shortly.
Focused on goal
Bill Foley has called it the standard.
Not that all of his players had heard about it.
“Bill’s a smart man, right?” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “He’s done a lot of good things, right, in his life. We’ll see how it turns out. We aren’t going to get satisfied until we win it all here. Going to stay focused.”
Focused on making true their owner’s prediction.
Foley has never shied away.