Las Vegas’ NHL team will positively impact Storm youth
With the recent announcement that the NHL will have a team in Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season, it’s expected that the youth hockey scene will take off, much like what happened when teams landed in places such as Phoenix, Anaheim, San Jose and even Colorado.
The Nevada Storm, a growing youth program with AA and AAA teams for the 2016-17 season, has seen its organization explode organically, but adding an NHL team to town can only be a benefit.
“This means a lot for the growth of hockey,” said Storm hockey director Gabe Gauthier. “There will be new families and kids that will be getting involved with the sport with the addition of having more learn to play hockey events here at the Las Vegas Ice Center.”
A Southern California native (Torrance), Gauthier saw first-hand during his youth days the impact the NHL can have on the younger generation.
“When I was a kid, the Los Angeles Kings were heroes and role models for me and other young hockey players in SoCal,” Gauthier said. “This will be the same case with the Vegas players in the NHL and on the youth side, there will be role models and heroes to our youth. You will see the NHL players interacting with the young kids on and off the ice and will be educating the kids on how great this game is.”
Sounds like a win-win situation for sure.
Gauthier added that even with the inaugural season more than a year away, his players can’t wait to see what shakes out.
“The Storm kids are already very excited to go to games and are very anxious to see who will be on the team,” said Gauthier. “There will be more and more kids wanting to join hockey and pursue the game in hopes to be on the same stage as the players they once watched.”
Like in California with the Jr. Kings, Jr. Ducks and Jr. Sharks programs, the NHL club could very well have a youth affiliation in Las Vegas.
“Obviously, the NHL team has a lot of things they have to take care of from an organizational standpoint,” Gauthier said. “We have had talks with them about a Jr. name-of-Vegas-team program, but we plan on being the Storm for the 2016-17 hockey season.”
The Storm program has shown that high-level youth hockey can be sustainable in a market like Las Vegas, so can the NHL work in Vegas as well?
“Our motto of ‘Building Champions On and Off the Ice’ has been the reason for the success, along with the owners (John and Kirk Brooks), the coaches from house league to Junior A and families that we have in the organization,” explained Gauthier. “Hockey can be sustainable in areas where the owners, coaches and managers are putting in the effort and have the ability to communicate with the kids and families. In my mind, there is no doubt that the NHL will work here in Vegas. The ownership group is driven and ready to make this work. It will be a group effort from the NHL team and from the youth organization to educate and have an exciting product on and off the ice. Being involved with the schools and community service will be a big part of the education and growth to build a fan base.”
As a former pro player who saw time with the Kings, Gauthier knows what’s in store with the NHL.
“It’s the greatest game on Earth,” said Gauthier. “Watching a live NHL game is so much different than watching on television. As a fan, you will have a true appreciation for how talented these players are and being able to make the plays they make at high speed.”
– Matt Mackinder