Bill Foley of the Golden Knights champion of youth hockey

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It’s a Monday night at the City National Arena, and a playoff hockey game is going on.

There are two-on-one breakaways and stolen passes and glove saves and players sliding into the boards. Even a check or two.

They really go after that – in this 8U league.

Youth hockey has exploded in the Las Vegas Valley for boys and girls, and the popularity of a giant stick indicates a reason: the Golden Knights have taken it to a whole new level.

Bill Foley’s team, just 6 years old, has always had a special relationship with his fans. Whether it’s bonding through the healing process of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival or the joy of becoming the first NHL expansion team to make it to a Stanley Cup Finals , the Golden Knights share a loyal bond with Southern Nevada.

This continued with young players skating on slabs of ice.

This can all be attributed to inspiration from Foley’s organization, which made leveling a priority.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Foley said. “We came here and there really wasn’t a great junior program like this. From day one, we really wanted to develop men’s and women’s hockey. »

They have.

There are leagues for all levels of players, from home games like the 8U playoffs to the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights travel program.

Foley talks about the two patches of ice at City National Arena and two at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson. More are needed, which is why he says the Knights are hoping to add a few near Henderson Airport.

He wants it so that no ride is too heavy for families hoping to get their kids involved.

“If we can get six ice rinks and increase the youth program another 33%, then we really have something,” Foley said.

catch the bug

Brent Palluck and his wife have two sons involved with juniors, one in a 10U travel team and another in 8U. They never planned on becoming a hockey family, never thought about it.

But then Brent attended the Golden Knights’ first ever home game in 2017 and caught the virus. And then a sport was discovered that brought them indoors during the summer and away from sports in the blistering heat.

Much like a certain Hart Trophy winner (Auston Matthews) did learning to play in the Arizona youth leagues.

Now the Paluck family can’t get enough.

“Without the building of (City National) and the Golden Knights, this would never have happened,” Brent said. “It was never on our radar. Being at that first home game completely changed my perception of hockey. The junior leagues are getting better every year now. Our boys love it.

Which is a central part of Foley’s long-term vision.

Here’s one of his main goals when it comes to youth hockey: that as kids get introduced to the game at younger and younger ages, they also fall in love with it, like maybe their parents. And as players get older and attend more Golden Knights games, the fanbase will continue to grow over the decades and decades.

Always a focus

“(Youth hockey) here is bigger now than I ever imagined, Foley said. “You know, people were saying hockey would be a long shot in Las Vegas when we brought the team here. But we’ve been successful, and a lot of that is down to the junior hockey program and the fans that we have. built with it.

“It’s not noticed by a lot of people, but kids love to play. And we are focused on that and we will continue to be.

Listen. Until you’ve seen an 8U goalie poke check an opposing player, you haven’t lived.

Although I’m sure neither of them understood what happened.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports writing and can be contacted at [email protected] He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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