LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Nearly five years into the franchise and the Golden Knights have taken the National Hockey league by storm, not just on the ice, but off it as well. Players come and go, the wins and losses alternate, but the one constant has been the VGK pregame show prior to puck drop.
"People get caught up in thinking it's one person and it's not," said Golden Knights VP of Entertainment and Experience and Production Tyler Cofer. "There is a huge team behind it, there's a lot of people that have been here since day one and still here, still passionate about what we're doing."
Cofer, like William Karlsson or Jonathan Marchessault, is an original misift, meaning he was part of the in-game entertainment team in year one. Cofer oversees a team of 100+ people for each home game, from the control room to the camera operators, to the cast and crews fans see on the ice and in the stands. He is also the show caller, meaning he is responsible for setting the standard and delivering the audience experience.
"There is a level of expectations here, you have the Cirque du Solei's, all the shows on the strip and we want to be up to that level and represent Vegas and what people expect when they come from both a sporting event standpoint and a show standpoint", Cofer said.
Most of his team operates from the control room on the pressbox level at the top of T-Mobile Arena, but Cofer said the only way for him to get the true feel of the Fortress is to be on the main concourse and in the thick of the action.
"To be able to be right in the middle of it, you can see how video plays, how fans react, you can make notes in the moment of how that worked. So, when we come back to that in three games, we're constantly seeing how things are playing in-arena or if needs tweaked, we make that note and go back", Cofer said.
The Golden Knights opened year five of the franchise beating the league's newest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, on national TV, but the next day the hockey world wasn't talking about the game as much as they were the pre-game theatrics.
"The last game against Seattle is maybe the most nervous before I got on the ice," admitted the team mascot, the Golden Knight. "I don't know why, I don't know what hit me, maybe it was the length of time, but literally I was lacing the skates up and it hit me like a sledgehammer. The nerves, it came off really well", cofer said
"We go into every show thinking what we can do for the fans," Cofer said. "We never go into like, what might go viral, what might hit, what might transcend sports. It's all about trying to create the best atmosphere inside the venue for our team to play in and for our fans to experience."
Team President, Kerry Bubolz said the pregame phenomenon isn't something that happened by chance, instead it has always been a foundational focal point for the club and one that continues to evolve.
"This is the entertainment and sports capital of the world, so we knew if we were truly going to be great in what we do, as part of a show, that we had to match all of the great entertainment that is right here, right on the strip here in Vegas and we made it a big priority, right out of the gate with season one", Bubolz said.
"I'm definitely getting my money's worth," said Golden Knights fan Heather Alvarez. "We joke that they celebrate pregame, during the game, like it's the playoffs every time. It's so impressive, it gets you so pumped. We love Vegas, not interested in the Blues so much, but we're so excited to be here because of the experience that we don't care what team is playing. The experience alone is so intense and exciting, that we don't care what team is playing."
"This is very compelling and motivational, but it always has been," said VGK season ticket member, Christopher Green. "The Vegas Golden Knights entertainment team, the behind the scenes, has always been super innovative in creating a super charged atmosphere. It's a wonderful experience and yeah, you can't pay for a better experience."
When fans and staff look back at the "wow" moments in the teams history, the one creation that consistently gets brought up is when the Golden Knight cut a Winnipeg Jet in half prior to a Stanley Cup Playoff Western Conference game during the inaugural season. However, the team also admits that there have been some ideas that haven't worked out along the way.
"We had these great oversized balls that were passed around the crowd," Cofer said. "One managed to make its way down the ice, which in our world is the last thing we want to happen, but again we're given the ability to try stuff."
"Horse on ice skates was one of them, I know there was a tiger mentioned at some point as well, but that was nixed as well because I think the whole reason it got nixed, was what happens if it pees on the ice," said The Golden Knight, Lee Orchard. "That's the reason why it got nixed."
"We're going to try a lot of different things, not all of it is going to work and we're going to be ok with failure and I think that's an important mindset," Bubolz said. "It allows more creative ideas to come to the table, people know that if it doesn't work it's ok and we'll just move on to the next thing. That really starts with Bill Foley, ready, aim, fire. Let's give it a shot."
No matter the result in the Golden Knights games, Cofer and his staff said their is one message on the mind of the cast and crew as they look to create the next project.
"I know somebody out there, I don't know which seat they're in, but it's their first game and I want to make sure they have fun," said Orchard. "I always banter with the opposition fans as much as I can I'll stop for a photograph with anybody who wants to take a photograph. I'll visit a seat of anyone whose birthday it is, anything I can do to enhance the experience. That's something that has been drummed into us as a team, by Kerry, by Bill form the very beginning. Make it count. Make it count and make memories for people."
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