Denver’s next great sports rival is Las Vegas

May 6, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Vegas Golden Knights fans celebrate against the San Jose Sharks during the third period in game six of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

You’re from Denver, so you must hate Las Vegas, right?

Okay, that’s not what you’re thinking now. It makes no sense. Vegas is great!

But that hate may eventually come.

Right now, Vegas only has one major professional sports team. NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights are in the Western Conference Finals and hope to win the Stanley Cup in their first year of existence. For now, Vegas is the fun team to root for—they have showmanship, a band of players that were turned away by their old teams, and an exciting sense of newness.

Right now, they’re a feel-good story with a shade of the Colorado Avalanche’s early history. While the Avalanche moved to Denver from Quebec, to us Coloradans, it was still a fresh start. The Avs brought none of the Nordiques’ jerseys and banners with them. They won over the city with their dazzling play and delivered the city its first NHL (and major sports) championship in 1996.

The Knights have also shown that professional sports will work in a city crowded with entertainment options. Every professional league will now want to become a part of the glitzy Las Vegas scene. Not only do the locals want to support teams, but it’s a great destination option that will bring fans in from around the league. All-Star games and award shows will be better in Vegas. You’re not just going for the game; you’re going for the experience of the city.

The second team to enter Las Vegas will be the Oakland Raiders. When Oakland moves to Nevada, the Broncos historical rival will bring their pitchfork-waving fans with them. The silver and gray body paint, bizarre costumes and bad-boy attitude will take over the city.

Assuming that John Elway figures out the Broncos and Jon Gruden figures out the Raiders, some pretty important games could take place in Vegas for Denver. It will only takes a small spark for the Raiders-Broncos rivalry to return to its former glory. Both fan bases crave a return to the hate-fueled days.

Vegas doesn’t look like a lovable, underdog sports town now, does it?

The next piece of the puzzle is the Major League Baseball team that will eventually end up in Vegas. There are several options, but the team could end up in the Rockies’ division, either through expansion or realignment.

The closest thing the Rockies have to a rival right now is the Arizona Diamondbacks, especially after last year’s Wild Card Game. The Diamondbacks are looking at options to move out of their current stadium, which Major League Baseball wants to be condemned. It seems likely that they will stay in Arizona, but a lot could change. If they ended up in Vegas (perhaps renamed the Vegas Snake Eyes?), a second rival would emerge in the city.

The last domino to fall (until the NBA adds a team in Vegas) is an Avalanche-Golden Knights rivalry. This could spring into existence over a couple of bruising playoff series. The Avalanche look ready to enter the playoffs regularly, so this seems like a possibility.

With three teams competing against each other repeatedly, every game would fuel the rivalry.

I still have a hard time having a rational conversation about hockey with a friend who is a Detroit Red Wings fan. The whole city of Detroit has a cloud over it for me because of the storied history between the Avalanche and the Red Wings. Imagine having that with Vegas? Southwest might start canceling flights between the cities.

Vegas is a fly-in city, while Denver is a fly-over city. Vegas’ casino model is about bringing everyone inside, while Denver is about getting people outdoors. Vegas is the oasis in the desert, while Denver is the city in the Rocky Mountains’ shadow. Denver is clean, while Vegas is…

For now, I’m still going to cheer on the Knights. The rivalry will have to begin down the road.

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