The dates have been circled in the calendar for quite some time, but this weekend will now officially mark the end of the Frozen Fury era.
For Kings fans who have annually flocked the I-15 North to Las Vegas since 1997 for the team’s final preseason game, it will be a missed tradition.
“I still think to this day that’s the best exhibition game you can possibly be a part of,” Anze Kopitar said Friday. “I think obviously the MGM Arena was a little bit smaller than this but it was pretty loud. … I think the fans themselves every time they had a lot of fun. … You want to be a part of those types of games. It’s almost a unique situation when you play those types of games so it was very special being part of that.”
This season of course Frozen Fury comes with some twists – two games instead of one, with games being played at T-Mobile Arena, which opened its doors in early April of this year and is part-owned by AEG and MGM.
While T-Mobile Arena is beautiful by NHL arena standards go and any standards go, really, — sight lines fit for hockey, spacious black seats, a massive scoreboard and all-new everything — there’s a little bit of something that MGM had that will be missed by everyone.
“Having it at the MGM was actually a lot of fun,” Drew Doughty said. “It seemed like the fans really enjoyed it, it seemed like they were closer to us too so we could really feel that energy from the crowd and stuff like that. The fans are so pumped up to come to it every year. We had a big, big following. Moving it here obviously it’s going to change things up a bit, it probably won’t feel the same but I’ll miss playing at the MGM.”
In Las Vegas today the Kings took the ice for morning skate just before 10 a.m. and in turn got their first glimpse of T-Mobile, which will of course be home to the yet-to-be-Knighted name of the new Las Vegas franchise a season from now.
The reviews were positive ones.
“I think the rink looks obviously really nice,” Kopitar said. “It’s very bright in there which is good and the ice was good. Ice held up obviously for the first part and then we kind of chewed it up.” On the lighting Kopitar added: “You see better, you can track the puck better, especially for goalies I think. It’s definitely a good thing.”
Doughty gave a thumbs up on the brightness as well. Goalie Jonathan Quick added that the boards have “a little bounce to it,” but “not the most I’ve ever seen.” So, not quite Detroit.
For the sake of comparison, MGM Grand Garden Arena seats 16,800 and T-Mobile will pack in an extra 700 fans if it meets its capacity (17,500) tonight, but everything’s always different from practice versus a game.
“Until I play out there it’s tough to compare it until you actually get in to play a game but I know the atmosphere when we played at MGM was awesome,” Quick said. “Felt like a regular season game and it’s the last game of the regular season so both teams usually dressing their full lineup or close to it.”
And the next time the Kings travel for a game at T-Mobile it will feel like a regular season game because it will likely be one. Once the door closes on this weekend the next time the Kings return to T-Mobile it will be as the road team against the Las Vegas franchise. This weekend they’ll have home-ice advantage one last time.
Right? Well, maybe.
“I think a lot of our fans will definitely make this trip to Vegas,” Doughty said, looking ahead to next season. “What better city to follow your favorite team to? I’m sure it will be pretty loud for us when we play here so kind of looking forward to that.”
Quick, on recalling quirky preseason game locations:
The first time I did it playing in Vegas I thought that was pretty unique. We went over to Europe a couple of times and played over there. … It’s just different because you’re in a different country but once you’re on the ice it feels normal.
Quick, on playing in Vegas:
It’s exciting, it’s something different. It’s not like you’re playing in an arena that you play in 40 times a year or a team within your division that you’ve faced to many times It’s fun, exciting in that sense and I certainly expect that to be the case tonight and tomorrow.
Doughty, on traveling to Las Vegas as the road team next season:
It’s key for our team because it’s such a close flight. We could use a few closer flights because we travel the most of probably most teams. It’s good. It’s close for us so that’s always good. And yeah, it will be fun coming to Vegas. Same as any other city really just kind of got to get the work done.
Doughty, on whether players have discussed missing Frozen Fury:
We haven’t really talked about it but I’m sure we will miss it a little bit. It’s always fun coming here. There’s so many things to do here. Usually when you’re on the road or something like that you’re just sitting in your hotel room the whole time whereas here there’s a lot of things you can do to get out. That’s what I like about here so I’ll miss that for sure.