In Las Vegas for a conference, Rhodes Barrett was excited when he saw that the dates lined up with a Vegas Golden Knights game.
The talk of the National Hockey League in their first season, the Golden Knights were a fantastic draw for the sportsbooks of Las Vegas, and for someone like Rhodes who enjoys betting and hockey, it makes an already exciting trip to Sin City even more enticing.
With the home of the Golden Knights, T-Mobile Arena, sitting directly on the Strip, just behind New York-New York Hotel and Casino, a ticket to a Golden Knights game can provide all-day entertainment for locals and visitors alike.
A Canadian from Toronto, hockey runs through the blood of Rhodes, so the opportunity to go to a Golden Knights game in their inaugural season was a prospect he couldn’t let pass by and a chance he looked forward to well before his plane arrived on a late March Sunday afternoon.
“Inaugural seasons don’t come around that often,” Rhodes said. “Knowing I was going to be in Vegas for a conference and they had a home game, no matter what the conference might have had planned, I was going to the game.”
As luck would have it, Rhodes acquired entry to a potentially historic game, as the Golden Knights would take on the Colorado Avalanche with the ability to punch their tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the team’s inaugural season. (The Golden Knights, of course, would continue their historic first season all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals.)
Rhodes describes himself as someone who is up for mostly everything, and he already thought about throwing down some money on his trip, but the historic potential made it even more likely. “They’re making the playoffs, but this is their chance to clinch at home, and it just feels like they’re going to do it,” Rhodes said prior to the game. “My buddy and I are hitting the sportsbook since he wants to bet on the NBA, but since we’ll be at the game cheering anyway—might as well have even more to cheer for.”
As Rhodes wrapped up his day’s commitments for the conference at The Venetian, where he was also staying, he headed to his room to finish up some work. By 3 p.m., Rhodes was making his way down the Strip to meet his buddy at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Lagasse’s Stadium in The Palazzo provided one enticing option to enjoy some dinner while betting on the game, but being a touch too early and with The Cosmopolitan on the path to T-Mobile Arena, Rhodes said it made sense to head to the book at The Cosmopolitan.
“My buddy loves The Cosmopolitan and all the amenities it offers,” he said. “We figured we’d come down, hang out while we bet a little bit before grabbing a bite to eat and heading down to the arena.”
Rhodes had never bet on a game before, so he made his way into the open and welcoming Cosmopolitan sportsbook, just inside the main entrance off Las Vegas Boulevard. He hesitated before heading to the counter, but a smiling employee motioned for him to come up.
He said he wanted to bet on the Golden Knights game.
“We can do that!” she said with a bit of a chuckle, and asked him how much.
To make it worth his while, Rhodes put $185 bill on the counter, and she printed out the receipt. If the favored Golden Knights won, he was in line to collect $100 in winnings so he was feeling pretty good about his chances.
As he backed away from the counter, Rhodes’ friend confidently strolled up and also bet on the Golden Knights game they’d soon be watching plus two additional wagers on the evening’s NBA games.
They headed to the bar immediately adjacent to the counter and grabbed their beers before settling into a few of the comfortable chairs in front of the many big screens tuned to sports.
Rhodes quickly noted the amazing luxury the West Coast has when it comes to sporting events.
“It’s great you can start watching games at 4 p.m., and the West Coast games start at the normal time,” Rhodes said.
The two guys made their way up to the second floor to eat at Momofuku, celebrity chef David Chang’s Las Vegas restaurant, before walking less than a mile to T-Mobile Arena.
Rhodes was immediately surprised by the pre-game atmosphere at The Park, the stretch between Las Vegas Boulevard and the arena, complete with Shake Shack, Bruxie Original Fried Chicken & Waffles, Beerhaus and more. Immediately outside T-Mobile Arena is Toshiba Plaza, providing an outdoor area for sponsorship activation and a video wall showing the action inside the arena.
Rhodes dropped into Beerhaus and grabbed a pair of beers from its impressive selection of brews, including many locally crafted versions, before making his way back out to enjoy the weather and the music and crowds out on the plaza.
With Las Vegas being the global tourism attraction it is, opposing hockey fans have made it a priority to come to games on the Strip. Prior to each Golden Knights game, The Park and Toshiba Plaza are packed with fans supporting the home team, but also those decked out in the opposing team’s jerseys and colors. The Avalanche fans were no exception.
“It’s an insane party atmosphere. Everybody’s just so happy to be headed to the game … ,” he said, “enjoying the weather and just being in a fun, upbeat environment.”
At about 6:50 p.m., they made their way to the front entrance. A lengthy line moved quickly, and they made it to their seats about a minute into the game.
Following a scoreless first period, Rhodes didn’t let his confidence wane, and 4:14 into the second period, Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch put them on the board, with an assist from forward William Karlsson, who Rhodes picked up mid-season for his fantasy hockey team.
The Avalanche tied up the game less than 10 minutes later, but another Golden Knights goal, with another Karlsson assist, less than a minute later sent Rhodes into a wild cheer with the rest of the T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights scored another two goals in the third period, including one by Karlsson—his 40th of the season—and Rhodes left the arena ecstatic. For a hard-core supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the NHL’s Original Six teams, Rhodes was amazed and surprised by his first experience with desert hockey at the Golden Knights game.
“The atmosphere is absolutely electric,” Rhodes said. “I’ve been to a bunch of NHL games at stadiums across the U.S. and Canada, and this blows a lot of those experiences out of the water. The fans here know how to party and cheer.”
As they exited T-Mobile Arena, Rhodes made his way back to The Cosmopolitan to cash his winnings. He was up a net of $54, but it still provided an exciting night of winning, both for the Golden Knights and his wallet.
“Betting provided just another [entertainment] aspect to the game,” he said. “It’s more exciting knowing you have a little extra riding on the game, but I felt like they would win.”
After cashing out, he made his way to the third floor of The Cosmopolitan to spend his winnings on a few slices at Secret Pizza before turning in for the night.
“I’m going to do my best to find some tickets for Wednesday,” Rhodes said. “I’ll bet again, even if I’m not as positive they’ll pull through. It just adds another dimension to going to a game.”