COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Puck drop is less than two months away for the Golden Knights, and many still wonder how a hockey team can thrive in an area best known for tourism and gambling. But the Knights are looking past the Las Vegas Strip for support -- further than the suburbs, too. The Knights' broadcast footprint stretches across parts of Idaho, Montana and Utah.
This week, a handful of players and executives are boarding a caravan to explore their new territory. ESPN has been offered a seat on the bus for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Vegas' first pro team is trying to engage its new community ... a couple hundred miles at a time.
Wednesday from Idaho to Whitefish, Montana
Bill Foley explains why he believes the Golden Knights will be "the team of the Rockies."
The ice arena in Whitefish, Montana keeps with the town's rustic aesthetic. Bonus: there's a rink dog.
The Knights brought a hype man to their hockey clinic.
Alex Tuch and Jake Bischoff were roommates at USA Hockey National Team Development Program camp. Now they're teammates for the Knights. Are they still compatible? Let's find out.
Knights Alex Tuch and Jake Bischoff chat with Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald. Can report Lanny's mustache game is strong as ever.
At Bill Foley's office in Whitefish, Montana: a collection of his wines (he owns 19 wineries) and a replica of what he'd like to win in his newest venture.
Bill Foley's ranch has some views.
This is Golden Knights owner Bill Foley's ranch in Montana. And this is Bill Foley's horse, Marist.
Nothing to see here. Just waiting to pick up some hockey players in a McDonald's parking lot.
Off to Montana!
Morning in Idaho.
Tuesday in Idaho
Not your average sight at a Holiday Inn Express. After a day of driving 480 miles, the bus is treated to a 170-gallon fill up (and a nearly $500 gas bill) before turning in for the night.
Not everybody is a Las Vegas Knights convert... yet.
Perhaps nobody traveled as far to see the Knights on Tuesday night as these brothers from Alberta, Canada. They were on a family camping trip in Spokane when.... (we'll let 14-year-old Clayton Yates take it from here)
Only two Idaho-born players have made it to the NHL: Guyle Fielder & Pat Shea. Both played before 1960. Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews is the reigning success story for the NHL's Sun Belt expansion (Matthews, born in Arizona, began playing hockey after attending a Coyotes game), but the Knights could dot the map with a few more examples.
Hockey, in Idaho, is a non-sanctioned high school sport. There's only 3,582 registered hockey players in the state, per USA Hockey. This rink in Coeur d'Alene is the only full-sized ice arena in Northern, Idaho -- and the only one within a 45 minute radius.
In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho more than 200 showed up for a free open skate, sponsored by the Knights. Vegas goalie Calvin Pickard, who played with the Avs last season, was the main attraction.
Golden Knights goalie Calvin Pickard explains Vegas perception vs reality.
Here's the bus the Golden Knights will be traveling in on their first road trip.
The Golden Knight rises.
When Las Vegas got an NHL team, many wondered if the city would rally around it. But the Golden Knights aren't just counting on Vegas for support. The team's television coverage area includes parts of Idaho, Montana and Utah. This trip, which includes hockey clinics and community events, is a glimpse into how Vegas' first pro sports team is drumming up support ....literally by putting skates on the ground.
Greetings from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. For the next 36 hours, I'll be joining the Vegas Golden Knights on their inaugural caravan tour as players and execs board a bus and travel hundreds of miles across Idaho, Montana and Utah to introduce themselves to new fans.