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The Vegas Golden Knights timeline, from inception to Stanley Cup Final

How the Knights went from an idea to a Cup finalist.

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t have a team a year ago. Now they’re in the Stanley Cup Final in their first season of existence, playing against the Washington Capitals.

A lot has happened. Here’s the chronology:

June 24, 2015

The NHL’s Board of Governors officially opened the expansion process. That didn’t really mean anything, other than that the league would consider adding a 31st team.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the time:

“Over the past several years we have received numerous expressions of interest from potential markets and ownership groups that have indicated an interest in joining the National Hockey League. The Board decided today to examine those expressions more formally and also to welcome any other groups or markets that may be considering pursuit of an NHL team.

”The fact that we are beginning this process does not necessarily mean that any expansion teams will be granted as a result of this process.”

The league then opened up an application process for potential ownership groups.

July 21, 2015

The NHL said that it had gotten two applications for expansion franchises. One was to put a team in Quebec City, and the other was to put a team in Las Vegas.

The league spent a couple of months reviewing both.

September 29, 2015

The Vegas and Quebec groups made in-person pitches to the Board of Governors’ executive committee at meetings in New York.

December 8, 2015

The board had a big meeting. Afterward, Bettman told the media:

“The purpose was to update the committee on everything that we’ve done since the filing of the applications, the data that we’ve collected, the research that we’ve done and the information that we have at our disposal. Having now seen the information that’s been gathered, having been 99 percent satisfied with what we’ve identified and what we’ve reported, then the committee will have to begin substantive discussions … there are many questions that still need to be resolved.

After you get past the point: Do we want to expand? Issues regarding a potential expansion draft are among them, but the biggest one remains. Are these the right markets? Are these the right applicants? Are we comfortable with the arena? The list goes on and on. It’s an important, significant business decision, and it’s being treated in a businesslike way.”

June 7, 2016

The board’s executive committee decided to recommend to the rest of the league’s owners that the league add a franchise in Las Vegas, led by owner Bill Foley.

June 22, 2016

The league’s owners voted unanimously to add the Las Vegas franchise. The team, which still didn’t have a name, would play in the privately financed T-Mobile Arena.

(Here’s a more detailed timeline of some of the bureaucratic stuff, from the league.)

July 13, 2016

The still-nameless team hired George McPhee as its general manager. McPhee had spent 17 years as the Capitals’ GM, but Washington didn’t renew his contract after missing the playoffs in 2014. In his Vegas introductory press conference, McPhee called his shot:

“Our mission here is clear. We’re going to build an organization and a team that people in Nevada and Las Vegas will be very, very proud of, and we’re going to do it quickly, and we’re aiming at the Stanley Cup. That simple.”

November 22, 2016

The team got a name: the Vegas Golden Knights. It also got colors and a logo:

(That crest has been the subject of a copyright fight between the Golden Knights and the Army Black Knights at West Point. Vegas still hasn’t been able to trademark its logo.)

March 6, 2017

The Golden Knights signed their first player, winger Reid Duke. A former sixth-round pick of the Wild who never signed there, Duke was a big scorer in a Canadian junior league.

April 13, 2017

The Knights hired former Blue Jackets and Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant to be their first head coach. Gallant had led a nice turnaround a few earlier in Florida.

June 21, 2017

The Knights picked the majority of their roster in the NHL Expansion Draft. They took one player from each of the other 30 teams, with those clubs allowed to “protect” between nine and 11 players each. For Vegas, the draft had a more favorable format than previous expansion drafts had for teams entering the league. McPhee spent several days around the draft making trades, which helped Vegas load up on entry draft picks and add talent.

September 14, 2017

The nascent franchise opened its first training camp.

September 17, 2017

The Knights beat the Canucks in Vancouver in their first preseason game, 9-4.

October 6, 2017

The Knights beat the Stars in their first regular-season game, 2-1. James Neal scored the first two goals in franchise history, the latter a game-winner with less than three minutes to play.

October 10, 2017

The Knights beat the Coyotes in their first home game, 5-2.

March 27, 2018

The Golden Knights clinched a playoff spot by beating the Avalanche.

April and May 2018

The Knights tore through the Western Conference playoffs with a 12-3 record. They swept the Kings in the first round, beat the Sharks in six games in the second, and beat the Jets in five in the third. They clinched a berth in the Final by beating Winnipeg on May 20.

May 28, 2018

The Golden Knights host Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, starting the last stage of the best expansion season in American pro sports history.