A lot of people don’t seem to get why a preseason hockey game in Las Vegas would be so popular. They say it’s expensive and if you really are traveling to Vegas just for the hockey game, they’d be right. If you don’t like Vegas and wouldn’t go there for a weekend every once in a while Frozen Fury is definitely not for you. However, if you have fun in Vegas (gambling, shows, clubs, food, etc.), Frozen Fury is the perfect excuse to spend a weekend in Vegas and have fun while also being able to see a game with their favorite hockey team (Kings or Avalanche). The setting is perfect for fans, since they can just party and have fun while watching their team play. Most fans stay within walking or cab ride distance of the MGM Grand, so they can party with friends (or with the early game this year, even see a show) after the game and then head back to their rooms in the early morning.
I like Vegas and would go there a couple times a year without Frozen Fury, so I always thought Las Vegas was the perfect atmosphere for preseason hockey. The games don’t matter and there’s always a lot of fighting in preseason hockey because of players trying to prove they can be useful. That’s the perfect kind of game for the laid back ambiance in Las Vegas.
The players know the fans love Frozen Fury and they get to have a little fun, too. Unfortunately, (especially for players like Rob Scuderi, who had never been to Las Vegas before this trip) the players don’t get much time to have fun and enjoy Vegas. However, they love the energy of the fans and seem to have fun playing poker with the fans in the Luc Robitaille Celebrity Poker Tournament, which raises money for Echoes of Hope (founded by Luc and Stacia). They may not all be good players, but the Kings seemed happy that the first player knocked out this year was a member of the Avalanche.
This year’s Frozen Fury game had a lower attendance (11,263 announced) than I can remember and a lot more empty seats, but I’m sure that’s due to the economy. Tickets for the game have never been inexpensive and if you live in LA or Denver, travel costs are definitely a factor. Casinos in Las Vegas have all been suffering from fewer guests willing to travel and pay high prices for hotels and shows. It’s not surprising that this affected the preseason game’s attendance. Players who have played in a few Frozen Fury games didn’t notice a difference in the crowd. The MGM Grand Garden Arena is always loud for Frozen Fury and this year was no exception. The fans are dedicated to their teams and make their support known throughout the game.
Fans are also a lot more intermixed than at a normal hockey game, where season ticket holders rarely sell their seats to opposing fans. With fans for the other team all around, fans for both teams seem more willing to loudly support their team, which adds to the different feel of Frozen Fury versus the other preseason games. Frozen Fury is also a good way to get ready for the regular season, which starts Thursday for the NHL, Saturday for the Kings (one of the days this season where all 30 teams play).
The Kings won this year’s Frozen Fury in a fairly dramatic fashion with Kopitar getting the Kings’ first lead at 13:25 of the 3rd period when a penalty shot was called because of the Avs covering the puck in the crease. I was glad to see that penalty called, since it seems to be overlooked fairly frequently. Kopi made the most of the penalty shot and put the Kings in the lead with his second goal of the game. Simmonds made it official with an empty net goal that just beat the buzzer. Frolov & Doughty also scored for the Kings. The Avalanche’s three goals came from Tucker (2) & Wolski.
Los Angeles had three out of town “home” preseason games this year. The others were in Ontario, California (where their ECHL team, the Reign play) and Kansas City where AEG owns another arena.
Fans that enjoy trips to Las Vegas definitely have fun at Frozen Fury and that affects the players on both teams, the energy of the game, and the atmosphere in the arena. Those who don’t like Vegas or have never been to Frozen Fury might not get it, but the fans who do attend love it and are probably happy they have fewer fans competing for tickets (which are already expensive on eBay and Stub Hub from what fans told me).