Expansion draft offers Vegas Golden Knights a historic snapshot

Updated June 20, 2017 - 11:01 pm

A snapshot, perhaps more than anything, catches a moment in time, something impossible to replicate.

It validates history.

In this way, Las Vegas on Wednesday night will take several more photographs to further substantiate having moved into major professional sports, the blank page adding significant text, the empty ice stage finally welcoming to the Golden Knights some of those who will assume leading roles skating across it.

Yes, it’s even bigger than the jersey unveil that occurred Tuesday night, which is saying something when you consider the Knights, NHL and Adidas over the last several days treated the moment with the sort of intense secrecy as if they were about to unearth the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

Memo to all involved: Take a breath.

It’s just a jersey.

More important— far more, in fact — is that months of preparing for an NHL expansion draft has ended for the Knights, who will make their selections public at T-Mobile Arena as part of the league’s annual awards show.

While the NHL celebrates its best talent, fans of the Knights will finally know several of those who will form the team’s initial roster.

You will now have names to put on the backs of those sweaters you’re about to purchase.

That’s history.

That’s one heck of a photo-op.

“Every once in awhile, yeah, you get a jolt,” Knights general manager George McPhee said. “But maybe I don’t think deep enough to be able to think about those things often. I’ve been so focused on the mechanics and all the details of what we’re doing.

“At some point, we’ll be able to exhale and I’ll say ‘Holy smokes, we’ve really accomplished something really neat.’ It’s been a fascinating time for the NHL.

“The attention this team has garnered all year long has been incredible. And from a personal standpoint, I guess I’ll look back on this some day and say, ‘Boy, those were the golden years, that it may have been the best year of my life, from a professional standpoint.’”

‘The good soldier’

Bill Foley, the team’s billionaire owner and chairman of Fidelity National, has enjoyed countless professional victories, but his journey in bringing Las Vegas its first major sports team has been unlike anything the business world ever offered him.

There is a lot of good in that.

There is also some frustration.

He has never been this less in charge when it comes to things like protocol and timing of key announcements (hello, nickname and logo and jersey weirdness), so Foley has had to channel his inner West Point ties and be the good soldier more times than someone of his experience expects as the NHL dictates all it desires.

But nights such as Wednesday, when Foley can really begin to know and feel and experience and embrace his team, allow such challenges to be replaced with a sense of fulfillment even the most important of corporate deals defined by the largest number of dollar signs can’t deliver.

There is no board room that can imitate the scene that will play out, no amount of strategic planning that could deliver the same emotions Foley is sure to experience.

“This has been such a fun and great experience so far,” he said. “You know, I’m usually involved in turning companies around. This has been different. We started with a clean slate. You hire a staff and make sure you have the right people in the right place and if you don’t, you make a change. We’re not fooling around. We’re going to do this thing right. It’s true the league has had a say in most everything so far. In that sense, it is what it is.

“I tell our staff all the time, from me to George and all the way down, we are going to always be incredibly involved with this community. That’s very important to us, and (Wednesday) night, when we make those picks public and can present them to Las Vegas … that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

There will be surprises, because there always are with any sort of draft, and if reports and rumors prove true about some of the deals McPhee has struck, he will have a very busy Friday evening during the first round of the entry draft in Chicago.

I’m not sure how many of the names announced Wednesday will ultimately wear those Knights sweaters and for how long, but I am certain those selected in the Windy City over the weekend will comprise the beginning of what McPhee envisions a long-term project to build a winner.

“We have great chemistry in the room,” McPhee said. “We have smart people in there, experienced people in there, and we get to a place with some healthy debate, but no arguing. It’s really been a pleasure.”

The results of that expansion draft debate will be known Wednesday.

Get your cameras ready, Las Vegas.

History is a terrible thing to miss.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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