“It’s our overall philosophy to make this Stanley Cup Final as big as it’s ever been, from an event and social standpoint,” said Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer, who has been working closely with the game operations staffs for both the Golden Knights and Capitals throughout the series. “We look at it as the greatest series in sports. How do you amplify that? How do you make it feel as big as it is?”
In Sin City, the expansion Golden Knights have been amplifying the pregame experience — normally one of the more mundane parts of attending a hockey game — all season. Vegas has taken it to another level during the playoffs, with elaborate pregame shows featuring special effects and sword fights at center ice. Lil John performed outside of T-Mobile Arena before Game 1, and the Las Vegas-based rock band Imagine Dragons sang “Whatever It Takes” on the ice before the national anthem at Game 2.
“Our goal in Vegas was to take what they’ve already done and make it grander,” Mayer said. “I’ll leave that up to you as to how you think we’ve done over the first two games.”
The pregame spectacle isn’t for everyone, but Capitals Coach Barry Trotz is a fan.
“I’m glad they do what they do,” Trotz said before Game 1. “I know when they first came into the league, I got a lot of calls because I have been a part of an expansion process. The one thing they asked me is if there was any advice you could give to Vegas, and I said, ‘Do it Vegas’s way.’ That’s what we did in Nashville [with the Predators]. Vegas is like no city on the planet. It’s unto its own, so don’t be try to be New York or Washington or Boston. Just be Vegas, and they are. That’s entertainment. We always have to remember that we’re in the entertainment business.”
“I do believe that we’ve been given permission to show the game outside,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said Friday morning on DC 101’s Elliot in the Morning show. “I’m thrilled that the city is working so hard with us so we can have that overflow and have people outside being able to enjoy the game.”
“We know weather may be a factor, but we’re hoping to have a pretty huge crowd out there watching the games,” Mayer said. “We want to make this a place where people with a ticket and without a ticket can gather and experience a Stanley Cup Final.”
Mayer wouldn’t offer many details about the plans for the pregame show inside the arena for the next two games, but he did say Capitals fan and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak will announce the starting lineups for Game 3, similar to how famous ring announcer Michael Buffer did before Game 1 in Las Vegas.
“It’s going to have a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ motif to it,” Mayer said. “The Michael Buffer introduction, yeah, it was so Vegas, and it got people talking. People could watch it with a smile on their face. When it’s authentic to a certain region, like Buffer is to Vegas and Sajak is to Washington with his fandom, that makes it work even better.”
“They’re newscasters and politicians,” Mayer said. “They’re not exactly going to go out there and do a song and a dance, but at the same time, many of them are attending the games.”
This post has been updated.
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