Prior to NHL winger Ryan Reaves getting traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Las Vegas Golden Knights midway through the team's inaugural season in 2017, he played in the Entertainment Capital of the World once as a member of the opposing team, and it left a lasting impression.
The lights, the flare, and the surroundings were captivating, but his biggest takeaway was the fans. For years, the city of Las Vegas never had a professional sports team, but the moment the Knights arrived it quickly turned into a sports town, according to Reaves.
"I think — it was my opinion I guess before I got traded here — that the whole crowd was basically people coming in to watch their team. 'Hey, let's go to Vegas, watch a hockey game. Let's go watch the Montreal Canadiens because we live in Montreal and Vegas is a nice vacation spot.' I think everybody thought it was going to be a bunch of away fans, but it's not even close to that," Reaves told Eddie Paskal on the latest episode of Upon Further Review. "You do have those games where you get the traveling teams and they take up an eighth of the arena, or whatever, but for the most part it's all locals here and people cheering for the Knights."
Since it was announced the Raiders would be moving to Las Vegas, there's been an outpouring of support from the locals, which Reaves can attest to. As a Raiders fan himself — he grew up a Jerry Rice fan and stuck with the Silver and Black even after he departed — Reaves expects the residents of Las Vegas to embrace the team in a way they've never seen before.
"I think obviously we were the first sports team [in Las Vegas], so there's going to be a big rally around that, but this is the first football team to come to Vegas, so I think the city has proved it's a sports town now," he said. "Now, you just start embracing everybody else that's coming in."
He continued, "The product is always there. In Oakland, not the results they wanted the last couple years, but it's a storied franchise and you bring that to Vegas and people will come and support. I'm sure there's a lot of Oakland fans that will be coming down to support the team too, so I'm not to worried about it."
In the two-and-a-half seasons he's been a member of the Knights, Reaves has become a focal point of the team, and it's hard to go down any street in Las Vegas without seeing a billboard with his face on it.
Reaves has felt the love and embrace of the Las Vegas fan base and knows it'll only grow when his beloved Raiders take the field in 2020. Raider Nation was strong before, but he thinks it's going to get even better in the desert.