LAS VEGAS – During an 84-game season, over the course of many NHL campaigns, there are very few things you could classify as “new” for an established hockey franchise or the fans that follow them.
But Tuesday night offers a unique opportunity for something that’s, well, unique. Certainly driving down the Las Vegas Strip to get to a hockey game is something out of the ordinary.
Hence Tuesday night is a unique one for the Blackhawks, who will face a new franchise for the very first time when the enter T-Mobile Arena. That’s the Vegas Golden Knights, who are in their first month of existence in “Sin City,” as the NHL keeps up its trend over the last generation of putting franchises in markets not typically thought of for hockey.
Since the NHL’s slowed down their creation of new franchises over the last 17 years, this is the first time the Blackhawks will be taking on a new franchise for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. That’s when they took on the Minnesota Wild for the first time in St. Paul and beat them 3-2 on October 29, 2000.
It was the second time they faced a new franchise that season – and their first match-up earlier in the month was more significant. That’s when they were the first regular season game in franchise history for the Blue Jackets in Columbus, beating them 5-3 on October 7, 2000.
Since 1991, the start of modern expansion of the NHL, the Blackhawks have been the first overall game for two other franchises. In 1992, they were the opening game for the Lightning, who surprised the defending Campbell Conference champions in a 7-3 win in Tampa. The next season, the Blackhawks were the first game for the Florida Panthers in Miami and played to a 1-1 draw on October 6, 1993.
Here are the Blackhawks records against new franchises when they’ve faced them for the first time since 1991.
Minnesota Wild – 10/29/2000 – Hawks win 3-2 in St. Paul
Columbus Blue Jackets – 10/7/2000 – Hawks Win 5-3 in Columbus (First Ever Game)
Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets – 2/12/2000 – Hawks win 4-3 in Atlanta
Nashville Predators – 10/24/1998 – Hawks win 5-4 at United Center
Florida Panthers – 10/6/1993 – 1-1 Tie in Miami (First Ever Game)
Anaheim Ducks – 12/19/93 – Lost 2-0 at Chicago Stadium
Ottawa Senators – 12/23/92 – Won 4-2 at Chicago Stadium
Tampa Bay Lightning – 10/7/92 – Lost 7-3 in Tampa (First Ever Game)
San Jose Sharks – 10/13/91 – Won 7-3 at Chicago Stadium
What’s different about this game is that the Golden Knights have held their own so far in their first year of existence. They’re 6-1 in their first seven games and their 12 points are tied with the Blackhawks at the moment in the Western Conference standings.
One of those teams will be above the other after Tuesday night – a most unusual one for the longtime Chicago NHL franchise against a new team in the hockey landscape.