Friday, March 3, 2023

Abbotsford Canucks 2 at Henderson Silver Knights 5 (AHL) - March 2, 2023

The second stop on my AHL west coast swing was Las Vegas suburb Henderson, where the Silver Knights had moved at the end of last season after playing in Orleans Arena since October 2020. Although only a four-hour drive from Palm Springs, it was much cheaper to fly, which I did. Southwest managed to get me there on time and after a quick stop at my hotel near the Strip, I grabbed a rideshare to The Dollar Loan Center.

It can be confusing when you first put Dollar Loan Center in Google Maps because there are Dollar Loan Centers all over the place. The one you want (unless you are looking for a short-term loan) is located just south of I-215 along Paseo Verde Parkway. Traffic moves quickly from Las Vegas and takes about 15 minutes depending on where you start, with the cost about $20-25 if you choose to ride. For those who drive, parking is $12 in advance or $15 upon arrival, but you might be able to park for free at The District open-air mall nearby, have dinner or drinks, and walk over. To the left in the photo above is the Craggy Range Sports Bar and Grille, a full-service establishment that was quite busy when I arrived. The box office is to the right in the photo above and does provide hard tickets, but the cheapest was $33. There are more affordable options online, including a $12 standing room ticket ($18.50 after fees) on the AXS ticket platform that for some reason is not available at the window. When you enter, the ticket taker rips a paper copy of your ticket, not quite a stub, but good enough.

Inside, the seating bowl is typical for this level, though there are a few rows in an upper deck that seemed reserved for those affiliated with the team.

There is a small club that comprises two sections at center ice that is zealously guarded at the door. However, the aisle on both sides is marked with velvet ropes between the handrails, and you can walk down the wrong side without anyone noticing, which puts you in the club anyway. Not that there is much to see here, and from what I could tell, food was not included.

At one end, the seats are quite steep, an unusual setup that I think is configurable when the venue is used for concerts. Note the French and Mexican flags above; I have no idea why they were there.

From the other side, you clearly see the triangular projections known as the King's and Queen's Lookouts, a design element that resembles T-Mobile Arena, home of the team's NHL parent club. I did not see if fans could get up there and did not notice any doing so during the game.

At the other end is The Castle, a couple of towers between which much of the pregame entertainment takes place. This is based on the same set up in Vegas, although on a slightly smaller scale. If you have seen a Golden Knights game, you know that they put on a show worthy of Las Vegas, and the Silver Knights follow in their footsteps. Or hoofsteps I guess. 

There is Harold, the town crier, who starts things off by engaging with a female knight in The Castle as they urge fans to defend the fortress against the invaders (from Abbotsford in this case). Harold also announces the goals as "scored by Sir" first name "of the House of" surname, followed by a loud Huzzah, a word that should reenter the vernacular posthaste. It might sound a bit corny but it works well, at least on initial viewing; I suppose after the tenth game it might get tiring. 

The mascot is Lucky, a glittery horse who personifies the gambling that Nevada is known for and the medieval knight theme that the franchise uses. 

The team wears what appear to be mirrored helmets that resemble what a knight would have worn to protect himself while jousting. It was really disconcerting at first glance as it gives the players a rather alien look.

Even the toilets are known as the Throne Rooms, while the team store is the Saddlery. Many of the staff are also clothed in faux-medieval fashion as the club really takes the theme to the limit. More power to them as fans really seem to enjoy it.

Along one corridor are the banners for all 32 teams in the AHL in alphabetical order, possibly the best presentation of the other teams in the entire league.  

However, the most impressive part of the building is the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, which takes up one end of the concourse.

Inductees include those born in the area as well as those that played here at some point. The late Armon Gilliam spent three seasons at UNLV before becoming the second overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft, behind David Robinson. What was so impressive about this display it that it was mostly electronic; with small photos of each inductee lighting up when the details of their career were on the screen. Of course, this means that you might have to wait a bit to see a player who you want to know more about, as well, there is a lot of detail on each member and not enough time to read it as they switch every 10-15 seconds. 

Overall, Dollar Loan Center is an excellent venue to watch the AHL, and shows what a creative group can do when given an idea. Vegas has one of the best AAA ballparks in the land and now it has one of the best in minor league hockey too. Huzzah! 

The Game

Those Canucks from Abbotsford brought their fantastic logo down to Henderson and that allowed me to hear another rendition of O! Canada. Unfortunately that was the highlight for the visitors, who stood third in the Pacific, four spots higher than Henderson. Spencer Foo scored for the Silver Knights just 1:37 in; 10 minutes later Daniil Chayka (second-round pick in 2021) doubled the lead with his first professional goal (in North America at least, he scored once in the KHL too).

In the second, Nils Hoglander got one back for Abbotsford on the power play, but Sheldon Rempal replied on the man advantage with a wicked shot that surprised Arturs Silovs. When Daniil Miromanov scored on a backhand early in the third to make it 4-1, the rest of the game was academic, with both teams adding a goal to make the final 5-2 Henderson as they defended their fortress against the ruthless invaders from the north.

Miromanov, who played 14 games with Vegas this season, was the first star with a goal and two helpers, while Isaiah Saville (5th round, 2019) stopped 34 of 36 shots for his first AHL win of the season after being called up from Savannah of the ECHL. 


The venue also hosts the Knight Hawks of the Indoor Football League and the G-League Ignite, meaning it holds three of the four minor league sports. 

Fellow New Yorker and budding sports traveler Dante was in Vegas for the Devils game and we met up afterwards. Always good to see fellow fans on the road, even if it does mean a selfie.



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