Sunday, December 30, 2018

How to Be a Devils Fan In Las Vegas -- 2019 Edition

The 2017-18 NHL season saw the debut of the League's 31st franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. They did shockingly well, winning the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, before being defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Washington Capitals.

This coming Sunday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils will face them at the T-Mobile Arena.

Before You Go. Las Vegas may have mountains in the distance, but it's the desert. It can get warm in the Winter, and brutally hot in the Summer. This being early January, you probably won't have to worry about the heat. But check the weather forecast on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website before you, so you'll know what to bring.

When I visited Las Vegas, a taxi driver told me it only rains about 2 days out of the year. Well, guess what? Sunday, January 6, is forecast to be one of those days. Temperatures will be in the mid-50s in daylight and the low 40s at night, so you will need a jacket, and there will be showers through the day.

For the moment, the next several days are projected to be in the low 70s, and the nights in the high 40s and low 50s. In other words, unseasonably warm for us, but normal for them. So you might want to not bring a Winter coat to Newark/JFK/LaGuardia Airport/Penn Station/Port Authority. If you're driving in, leave the Winter coat in the back seat once you get past the Rocky Mountains.

Although the State of Nevada is not on the Pacific Coast, most of it, including Las Vegas and environs, is in the Pacific Time Zone, which is 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Capacity for Knights games is listed as 17,500, and they averaged 18,042 per game last season, over a sellout. That would be understandable even if they were a typically awful expansion team, because of the novelty. So tickets will be hard to come by.

They will also be expensive as hell. Seats in the lower level, Sections 1 to 20, are a whopping $350 between the goals and $225 behind them. In the upper deck, the 200 level, they're $75 throughout.

Getting There. It's 2,524 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Las Vegas, and 2,518 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the T-Mobile Arena. In other words, if you're going, you're flying.

If -- pardon the gambling metaphor -- you play your cards right, you can get a round-trip nonstop ticket from Newark Liberty International Airport to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas for a little over $600. If you're willing to change planes in Denver, you can get them for just a little over $400. In other words, what you lose on game tickets, you'll make up on plane tickets. (Pat McCarran was a U.S. Senator from Nevada from 1933 until his death in 1954, and, despite his Democratic affiliation, he was one of the reckless Communist-hunters in Congress at the time.)

Amtrak doesn't go to Las Vegas anymore. Greyhound does, and round-trip fare is $622, but can drop to as low as $429 with advanced purchase -- and even that might turn out to be more expensive than flying.

The former Amtrak station is now the Greyhound station, and, as with another great party city, New Orleans, it might be the least interesting building in a city full of gaudy ones. 200 S. Main Street, downtown.
Driving is a bad idea -- even if it's not Hunter S. Thompson or one of his friends offering to drive you to Las Vegas. After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to drive, take Interstate 80 West, nearly to the Nebraska-Colorado line, then Interstate 76 West to Denver, then Interstate 70 West into Utah, to Interstate 15 South, which goes into Las Vegas.

Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you'll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, and Nevada for 2 hours; for a total of 43 hours. Factor in rest stops, you'll need nearly 3 full days. And, remember, that's just one way.

Once In the City. The name Nevada comes from a Spanish word meaning "snow-covered," and Las Vegas means "the stars," perhaps prophetic given the role the city would eventually have in the entertainment industry.

Nevada gained Statehood on October 31, 1864, and mentions of its transition from Territory to State, in the midst of the American Civil War (hence the motto "Battle Born"), were occasionally dropped on the TV show Bonanza, set at the other end of the State, in Virginia City, near Reno and the State capital, Carson City.
Founded in 1905, the arrival of the Golden Knights has allowed Las Vegas to surpass Edmonton as the newest city in North American major league sports, and Oklahoma City as the newest in the U.S. The fastest-growing American metro area in the 1980s and 1990s, it got hammered by the 2007-11 recession, possibly worse than any other city, but has recovered somewhat. It is home to about 630,000 people, and its metro area around 2.3 million. The city is about 48 percent white, 32 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black, 7 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American.
The "centerpoint" of the city, where east-west and north-south addresses begin, is Main Street and Ogden Avenue. The city has no beltway. It's important to remember that, as with Princeton, New Jersey, a lot of the major sights in "Las Vegas" are actually outside the city limits, south of them. Most of these are in the city of Paradise, including the airport, Caesars Palace, and the UNLV campus.

The Las Vegas Strip runs from Sahara Avenue to Russell Road -- from about 2500 to about 4700 South Las Vegas Boulevard. Northward to Flamingo Road -- with Caesars, the Flamingo, Bally's and the Bellagio on its corners -- in pretty much parallels I-15, the Las Vegas Freeway. Then it curves slightly to the east, toward downtown, separated from Main Street by 5 blocks.

If we accept downtown Las Vegas as "downtown Las Vegas," and Caesars as "downtown" for the casinos, then these are actually 4 miles apart -- not walking distance, especially in the usual Vegas heat.
The city has 2 major newspapers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun. Knowing that it wouldn't exist without Los Angeles and Hollywood, most of the casino-hotels also carry the Los Angeles Times. Knowing that they get visitors from the East Coast, they also carry the New York Times and the Washington Post. (At least, they did when I first visited in 1991. With the Age of the Internet, that may no longer be practical.)
"Bright light city, gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire!"
-- "Viva Las Vegas," lyrics by Doc Pomus,
melody by Mort Shuman, sung by Elvis Presley

The sales tax in the State of Nevada is 6.85 percent, and in Clark County, including Las Vegas, it's 8.1 percent. ZIP Codes in the Las Vegas area begin with the digits 889, 890, 891 and 893. The Area Code is 702, with 775 overlaid. NV Energy provides all that electricity.
The State House, the Nevada State Legislative Building,
in Carson City

The Deuce and the Strip & Downtown Express (SDX) provide premium frequent service approximately every 15 minutes along the Strip and in downtown. Visitors are required to purchase Strip & All Access passes which includes both Strip routes and all other residential routes. A 2-hour pass is $6.00, a 24-hour pass is $8.00, and a 3-day pass is $20.

The Las Vegas Monorail opened in 2004. It runs from SLS Station at Sahara Avenue south to the MGM Grand. A single ride is $5.00, a day pass is $12, and a 3-day pass is $28.
The Monorail, at the Westgate,
formerly the International and the Hilton,
Elvis' old stomping grounds

Going In. Anschutz Entertainment Group and Harrah's Entertainment built the T-Mobile Arena, naming rights bought by the mobile-phone company, and opened it on April 6, 2016, with Las Vegas natives The Killers and Shamir opening for Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton.
"The Fortress" (it doesn't look like one, but the nickname ties in with the Knights theme) has a mailing address is 3780 S. Las Vegas Blvd., about 3 1/2 miles south of downtown. It is accessible by MGM Grand Station on the Monorail, and it's a 2-block walk west. If you drive in, parking can be had at the MGM Grand for $20.

The court and rink are laid out east-to-west -- or, more precisely, southwest-to-northeast. The Knights shoot twice toward the northeast end, Sections 10 and 11.
Since it opened for the 2016-17 season, the Arena has hosted Frozen Fury, an annual NHL preseason game. That 1st season, the home team was the Los Angeles Kings, but, from this season onward, it's the Golden Knights. The arena has also hosted the Pac-12 Conference Basketball Tournament, the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor prizefight, the Miss USA pageant, and the Latin Grammys.

Food.  Las Vegas brings in people from all over the world, and knows that these people expect to be catered to. So there's lots of good food at T-Mobile Arena, run by Levy Restaurants:

* Pizza Forte: At Sections 1 and 11.

* Pink's Hotdogs (for some reason, spelled as one word): 3, 18 and 213.

* Cool Intentions Ice Cream: 6.

* Rollin Smoke Barbecue: 10.

* Tail and Fin (seafood): 19 and 219.

* Shake Shack: 20.

* Chronic Tacos: 20 and 209.

Team History Displays. Very quickly, they dispensed with the question, "What history?" At their home opener, they raised separate banners for their 2017-18 Western Conference and Pacific Division Championships.
The team's name is, sort of, a nod to history: Owner Bill Foley is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and he wanted to name the team the Black Knights, which is the name of the Academy's teams. The NHL turned that request down, saying it would be too close to the Chicago team's name, the Blackhawks. 

But, noting that "Knights" were, in his words, "the epitome of the warrior class," Foley looked for an alternative name, and found it. The helmet logo's exposed facial area seems to form a V, for "Vegas."

(Foley actually owns 70 percent of the team. The other 30 percent is owned by the Maloof family, formerly owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings.)
They also have a wraparound banner suggesting a window onto the city's skyline, banners of the other NHL teams, and a banner in memory of the 58 people killed in the gun massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017, during the team's 1st preseason. It has 58 points of light, rather than the number 58, although they have retired it as a uniform number. It's a number rarely worn in the NHL, anyway.
It's hard to say that they have an arch-rival yet. Geographically, their rivals would be the Los Angeles area teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks; the Phoenix-based Arizona Coyotes; and, I suppose, the San Francisco Bay Area's San Jose Sharks and Denver's Colorado Avalanche. They faced the Kings and Sharks in last season's Playoffs, before beating the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Finals and then losing the Stanley Cup Finals to the Winnipeg Jets. But I don't see a real rivalry forming yet.

Stuff. The Armory is to the right of the main arena entrance at the east end, and supplies the usual gear available at a team store.

This past July, the sports department of the Las Vegas Sun released Born to Glory: The Vegas Golden Knights' Historical Inaugural Season. In September, Joe Pane and Deke Castleman published Vegas Golden Knights: How a First-Year Expansion Team Healed Las Vegas and Shocked the Hockey World. As yet, there are no DVDs about the team, although, if they had won the Cup, there surely would be a DVD set.

During the Game. It's hard to tell who the Knights' rivals will turn out to be, and hard to say how rough their fans would be (although they might think about playing up Vegas' Mob image). As usual, your best bet for staying safe is to not antagonize anyone.

The Knights-Devils game will not feature a promotion. They hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. The Knights' goal song is "Vegas Lights" by Panic! At the Disco. They also sing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" as "Sweet Golden Knights." Bomp, bomp, bomp."

Their mascot is a Gila monster with a gambling-themed name, Chance. They opted against using a knight for a mascot, having seen that other knight mascots (such as Rutgers' Scarlet Knight) didn't seem very child-friendly.
As if an ugly regional lizard is.
At least this Ice Girl seems to like her.

After the Game. As I said, we don't know how rough VGK fans are going to be. But they are certainly in no position to talk trash yet. Just keep to yourself on the way out, and you should by fine.

Between the Arena and the strip is the New York New York Hotel & Casino. I don't know if it caters to New Yorkers (and New Jerseyans), but you should feel a little at home there. It has a Shake Shack and a Starbucks. And if you can't find a good place to drink in Vegas, then maybe that's one thing that happens in Vegas that should stay in Vegas.

If your visit to Las Vegas is during the European soccer season (which we are now in), the best soccer bar in the area is McMullan's Irish Pub, at 4650 W. Tropicana Avenue. Bus 201 to Cameron Street. Manchester United fans gather at the Crown & Anchor British Pub, 1350 E. Tropicana Avenue. Bus 201 to Maryland Parkway.

Sidelights. Last month, on November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and, as you might expect given its reputation as a city designed as a resort, Las Vegas came in 5th.

With 2 brief exceptions, the Golden Knights are the 1st major league sports team to call the Las Vegas area, or anywhere in the State of Nevada, home. Until now, it's been relatively isolated.

The closest other major league cities are as follows: Anaheim, MLB, 260 miles away; Los Angeles, all 5 big sports, 267; Phoenix, everything but MLS, 298; San Diego, MLB, 328; Salt Lake City, NBA and MLS, 425; San Jose, NHL and MLS, 521; Santa Clara, NFL, 528; Oakland, MLB, NFL and NBA (in each case, for the moment), 546; Sacramento, NBA, 558; San Francisco, MLB (and soon NBA, as the Warriors are moving back across the Bay), 562.

Because of the transient nature of Las Vegas -- a large percentage of area residents aren't natives, and people tend to stick with their home teams until they're raising children in their new area and then accept the local teams as their kids do -- prior to the Knights, no one sports team was particularly dominant in Southern Nevada.

The most popular baseball teams, as you might guess, are the Los Angeles Dodgers (with about 18 percent of the fandom, according to an April 23, 2014 article in The New York Times), the Yankees (15 percent) and the Boston Red Sox (9 percent).

In each case, that's mostly media-driven -- in the Dodgers' case, due as much to that as to geography. After all, the Angels are slightly closer to Vegas than the Dodgers, and the Padres (not a whole lot further away) were the longest-running parent club of the Triple-A team. But they don't show up on the area's radar these days. Nor do the Diamondbacks, even though Hoover Dam and the Colorado River, the Arizona State Line, are less than an hour's drive away, which is no big deal at all in the Western U.S.

As for the Northern California sports teams, they don't gain any popularity in Nevada until you get to the Reno/Carson City/Lake Tahoe area, 450 miles from Vegas. They're 130 miles from Sacramento, 220 miles from Oakland and San Francisco, and 250 miles from San Jose. In the other direction, they're 515 miles from Salt Lake City and its NBA and MLS teams.

In NFL fandom, according to an article in the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic, Western Nevada, the Reno part, is dominated by San Francisco 49ers fans. Eastern Nevada, very sparsely populated, is Denver Broncos country. But Southern Nevada, the Vegas area, the leader there is the Dallas Cowboys -- a whopping 1,200 miles away. 

Of course, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is in the process of carrying out his threat to move the team to Vegas, and he wants to make Nevada, the Silver State, "the Silver & Black State." So the Cowboys may be out as the area's top NFL team.

There was no encroachment on Los Angeles' domination of the NBA and NHL market in Vegas. A May 12, 2014 article in The New York Times showed the Lakers as by far the most popular basketball team, and that does have as much to do with geography as winning and media blitzes. 

The same holds true for the Kings: January 2016 article on BusinessInsider.com showed that, before anyone knew that the NHL was coming to Vegas, the 2-time recent Stanley Cup winners were the most popular team in Nevada.

The Utah Jazz played 11 "home games" at the Thomas & Mack Center in the 1983-84 season, and 2 more in 1984-85, going 6-8 overall. The 17,923-seat arena, named for prominent area bankers E. Parry Thomas and Jerome D. Mack, has been home court to the basketball teams at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) since it opened in 1983, with head coach Jerry Tarkanian, a.k.a. "Tark the Shark" (hence the arena's nickname, the Shark Tank), leading them to the NCAA Final Four in 1977, 1987, 1990 (winning the National Championship) and 1991, before falling victim to controversy.
It's also hosted minor-league hockey, arena football, and other indoor sports. The adjoining Cox Pavilion, seating 2,454, is home to UNLV's women's basketball team. It's hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World: The 1st Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight, November 13, 1992; Holyfield's win over Michael Moorer, November 8, 1997; and the 2nd Lennox Lewis-Holyfield fight, November 13, 1999, the last true unification fight for the title.

4505 S. Maryland Parkway, about 2 miles east of the Strip. And be warned: The UNLV campus is so tacky! (How tacky is it?) It's so tacky, it makes Rutgers' Busch Campus look like the College Avenue Campus.

UNLV's stadium is not on campus. It was built in 1971 as Las Vegas Stadium, became the Silver Bowl (in honor of Vegas' bowl game, now named the Las Vegas Bowl) in 1978, and renamed Sam Boyd Stadium in 1984, for a major figure in the casino industry.
In addition to the Rebels, it was home to the Las Vegas Quicksilvers of the original North American Soccer League in 1977 (featuring the aging Portuguese star Eusébio), the Las Vegas Posse in the Canadian Football League's brief U.S. experiemnt in 1994, and the Las Vegas Outlaws of the ill-fated, ill-advised XFVL in 2001. Real Madrid defeated Mexican team Santos Laguna there in 2012.

The north-pointing horseshoe seats just 35,500, and is expandable to 40,000. That's still a lot less than the Oakland Coliseum, but it would be just a stopgap facility for the Raiders anyway, if the Raiders do move to Vegas for the 2019 season, as they expect their new stadium to be ready by the start of the 2020 season. (At press time, it seems likely they've played their last game in Oakland, but a destination for the 2019 season has not yet been decided.) 7000 E. Russell Road, in Whitney, about 10 miles east of the Strip. The BHX Bus (Boulder Highway Express) takes 40 minutes to get there.

The stadium under construction, planned to open for the Raiders and UNLV in 2020, is at 2000 (or thereabouts) W. Hacienda Avenue and Dean Martin Drive, across I-15 from the Mandalay Bay Casino, and about 4 blocks south of the T-Mobile Arena. It will have a permanent, but clear, roof, and seat 65,000, expandable to 72,000 for Super Bowls and the NCAA Final Four.
Artist's depiction

Las Vegas now has a WNBA team, formerly the Utah Starzz and the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Las Vegas Aces will begin play this June at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

That arena has already hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World: Lennox Lewis beating David on November 11, 2000; Lewis beating Hasim Rahman on November 17, 2001; and Vitali Klitschko beating Danny Williams (not the Hawaii Five-O character) on December 11, 2004. 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd., about a mile south of the T-Mobile Arena and 5 miles south of downtown.
In 1947, local entrepreneur Big Jim Cashman built a stadium for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the Sunset League, a farm team of the Boston Braves. It was named Cashman Field. They moved into the Southwest International League in 1952, the Arizona-Mexico League in 1957, and the California League in 1958, but were always Class C -- at the time, 5 levels below the major leagues, equivalent to today's short-season A-ball (Staten Island Yankees, Brooklyn Cyclones).
The old Cashman Field wasn't much to look at.

They became the Las Vegas Pirates in 1958, but that was their last season. The city was then without professional baseball until a new 9,334-seat Cashman Field opened on the same site in 1983, when the Spokane Indians moved, and became the Las Vegas Stars, a farm team of the San Diego Padres. They won the Pacific Coast League Pennant in 1986 and 1988, giving Las Vegas 3 league titles.
In 2001, when they became a farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, they were renamed the Las Vegas 51s, in honor of a U.S. Air Force facility nicknamed Area 51, which is about 80 miles north of Las Vegas, and probably has nothing to do with aliens, although an alien is the team's new logo. They became a Toronto Blue Jays farm team in 2009 and a Mets farm team in 2013.

In 1996, because renovations at the Oakland Coliseum would not be finished by Opening Day, and groundsharing with the San Francisco Giants meant playing at Candlestick Park, the Oakland Athletics moved their 1st 6 home games to Cashman Field, making it the smallest stadium to host a regular-season Major League Baseball game in the 20th Century.

The Las Vegas Lights of the United Soccer League, American soccer's 2nd division, will begin play at Cashman Field in a matter of days. It looks like they will remain there next season, which (as you'll see shortly) will not be the case for the 51s. 850 N. Las Vegas Blvd., at the northern edge of downtown. Bus 113 will get you to within half a mile.

This year was the last season at Cashman for the baseball team. This coming April, under the new name of the Las Vegas Aviators, they will move into a new 10,000-seat ballpark, tentatively named Las Vegas Ballpark, but will surely have its naming rights snapped up by Opening Day 2019. It will have one major advantage over Cashman Field: Shade. Cashman has very little cover for the fans, and, as I mentioned, Las Vegas can get hot. 
Artist's depiction

10588 S. Town Center Drive, at Sahara Avenue, in Summerlin, about 10 miles west of the Strip. Monorail to SLS Station, then Bus SX, which will take about 45 minutes, but will still involve less walking than the considerably closer Cashman Field does now.

By the late 1970s, Las Vegas had overtaken Madison Square Garden as the boxing capital of the world. The 15,356-seat arena at Caesars Palace has hosted 12 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, with Larry Holmes winning the 1st 9.

It was Holmes taking the WBC version of the title from Ken Norton on June 9, 1978; knocking Alfredo Evangelista out on November 10, 1978; knocking Earnie Shavers out on September 28, 1979; knocking Lorenzo Zanon out on February 3, 1980; knocking Leroy Jones out on March 31, 1980; showing everyone just how far Muhammad Ali had fallen on October 1980; defeating Trevor Berbick on April 11, 1981; his thrilling fight with Gerry Cooney that ended with a 13th round knockout on June 11, 1982; and his 1st round demolition of Marvis Frazier (Joe's son) on November 25, 1983.

On June 19, 1992, Holmes had his own You-shoulda-hung-the-gloves-up-years-ago moment at Caesars, getting beat by Evander Holyfield. Holyfield regained the title from Riddick Bowe there on November 6, 1993; but then lost it there to Michael Moorer on April 22, 1994. Other notable fights there have included George Foreman's knockout of Ron Lyle in 1976, and Sugar Ray Leonard's win over Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987.
Beyond those fights, Caesars is the best-known casino in the Las Vegas area. 3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It has its own stop on the Monorail.

The MGM Grand Las Vegas opened in 1993, including the MGM Grand Garden Arena, an obvious nod to Madison Square Garden. The 17,157-seat arena hosted the NHL's Frozen Fury preseason game from 1997 until 2015, with the Los Angeles Kings as the home team.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena,
next to the MGM Grand, and with
the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in the background

But it's better known for boxing. In 1994, 45-year-old George Foreman regained the Heavyweight Championship of the World there by knocking Moorer out, and then beat Axel Schulz there on April 22, 1995. In 1996, Mike Tyson needed less than 2 minutes to knock Bruce Seldon out there; shortly after the fight let out, one of the spectators, rapper Tupac Shakur, was shot, and died 6 days later.

It was Tyson's last fight before he "Finally" faced Evander Holyfield. Both of their fights were at the MGM Grand, Holyfield's stunning upset in the 1st and Tyson's disqualification for biting Holyfield's ears in the 2nd. (The headline was obvious: "Heavyweight Chomp." I couldn't figure out why they didn't call it "Tyson's Midnight Snack," until I realized that the time difference meant that it was in the 9:00 PM hour, not the midnight hour as it was here in the East.) More recently, on January 17, 2015, Deontay Wilder took the WBC title there in a decision over Bermane Stiverne.

The Grand Garden has also featured Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fighting each other. 3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It is the southern terminus of the Monorail.

The T-Mobile Arena was built on the site of The Dunes Hotel, which hosted the title fight between Holmes and Tim Witherspoon on May 20, 1983. Witherspoon may have been hosed in a split decision, coming closer to beating Holmes than anyone did until Michael Spinks 2 years later.

Also gone is The Riviera, which hosted 3 title fights: Holmes beating James "Bonecrusher" Smith on November 9, 1984; beating David Bey on March 15, 1985; and, after building a 48-0 record, finally losing to Michael Spinks on September 21, 1985. 2901 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

The Mirage hosted 1 Heavyweight Championship fight, Holyfield taking the title from James "Buster" Douglas on October 25, 1990. It's still in business, at 3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

The Las Vegas metropolitan area currently ranks 24th out of 31 NHL markets in population. Presuming the Raiders do make the move, they'll rank 29th out of 32 in the NFL. If it had teams in the other Leagues, it would rank 30th in MLB (ahead of only Milwaukee), 27th out of 31 in the NBA, and 24th out of 26 in MLS.

Las Vegas is also known for music. Notable is Wayne Newton, in residence since 1958, when the future "Midnight Idol" was just 16. Howard Hughes' Sands Hotel was headquarters for "The Rat Pack": Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop -- who filmed Ocean's Eleven there in 1960 -- and whoever the 5 of them thought was worthy at any given time.

Women were auxiliary members at best, but they included Judy Garland (and, later, by extension, her daughter Liza Minnelli), Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson. Shirley, Angie and Liza are now the closest thing we have to living members. (Frank Jr., Nancy and Tina were never considered members.)

The Sands opened in 1952, with a show by Danny Thomas, and closed in 1996, and was soon demolished. The film Con Air ends with a plane crashing into it, and the building was demolished soon thereafter. In 1999, The Venetian Resort and Casino opened on the site. 3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Liberace is another name associated with the city, with his splashy performances and his museum a couple of miles east of the Strip, now closed. When he was onstage, he didn't need the city's light bulbs, neon and spotlights. He just had to smile.

And then there was Elvis Presley. On April 23, 1956, he began a 3-week stand at the New Frontier Hotel. With the nearby nuclear tests in mind, he was billed not as either of his usual nicknames at that point, "The Memphis Flash" or "Elvis the Pelvis," but as "The Atomic-Powered Singer."

But he was only 21 years old -- barely legally old enough to be in a casino. His fans were that age and younger, and couldn't get in to see him no matter how rich they were. The ones who were a little older usually couldn't afford it. And grownups were not ready to understand him at that point. So, after 2 weeks of 8:00 PM and midnight shows, the hotel cut its losses, paid him for the full 3 weeks, and sent him home a week early.

The New Frontier Hotel was demolished in 2007, and the land is currently vacant -- probably because it's owned by Steve Wynn, who's in legal trouble. 3120 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

His Sun Records labelmate Carl Perkins, then climbing the charts with "Blue Suede Shoes" (which Elvis, of course, would cover), remembers that when Elvis got back to Memphis, he said, "Someday, I'll be the highest-paid guy on that Strip."

On July 31, 1969, that prediction came true. The International Hotel put the 34-year-old King of Rock and Roll onstage, doing 4 weeks of dinner and midnight shows, selling out 2,200 seats every single time. In the last 8 years of his life, he would play 750 shows at the International -- renamed the Las Vegas Hilton in early 1972.
The Hilton hosted 10 Heavweight Title fights: Leon Spinks taking the title from Ali on February 15, 1978; Holmes knocking Ossie Ocasio out on March 23, 1979; Michael Spinks knocking Steffen Tangstad out on September 6, 1986; Tyson becoming the youngest Heavyweight Champion ever, knocking Berbick out on November 22, 1986; Tyson knocking Bonecrusher Smith out on March 7, 1987; Tyson knocking Pinklon Thomas out on May 30, 1987; Tyson knocking Tony Tucker out on August 1, 1987; Tyson knocking Frank Bruno out on February 25, 1989; and Lennox Lewis beating Oliver McCall on February 7, 1997.

The 375-foot Y-shaped white marble structure stood in for the Whyte House in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. From 1998 to 2008, it hosted Star Trek: The Experience. In 2014, the Hilton was renamed the Westgate Las Vegas Resort. 3000 Paradise Road, separated from the Strip by a street with the same name as Graceland's in Memphis: Elvis Presley Boulevard. It has its own stop on the Monorail.
Elvis played 84 shows at the Sahara Hotel in Stateline, near Lake Tahoe. It's now the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. 50 U.S. Route 50. And he played the Reno Centennial Coliseum on November 24, 1976. (It's now the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, at 4590 S. Virginia Street.) All told, he played 764 concerts in the State of Nevada -- 43 percent of the concerts he would ever perform. The State with the next-most was Texas, with 177.

After his death, his record for highest-paid Vegas performer would be broken, first by Liberace, and then by many others, including Elton John, Celine Dion and Britney Spears.

The Beatles played the Las Vegas Convention Center on August 20, 1964. This 6,300-seat arena also hosted Sonny Liston when he defended the Heavyweight Championship against Floyd Patterson on July 22, 1963; Muhammad Ali when he defended it against Patterson on November 22, 1965; and Ali when he defended it against Ron Lyle on May 16, 1975.
UNLV also played basketball there from 1959 until the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center in 1983. But it was demolished in 1990, for an expansion of the convention facilities. 3150 Paradise Road, next-door to the International/Hilton/Westgate.
The Convention Center as it appeared in 1964

* Reno. Elsewhere in Nevada, Reno -- 437 miles to the northwest -- has 2 professional sports teams: The Reno Aces are the 51s' rivals in the PCL, and since 2009 have played at the 9,013-seat Greater Nevada Field. The Arizona Diamondbacks farm team won the Pennant in 2012, having previously won in 2006 as the Tucson Sidewinders. Also playing at this stadium is Reno 1868 FC of the United Soccer League. 250 Evans Avenue.
The main campus of the University of Nevada is also in Reno. While UNLV's teams are called the Runnin' Rebels -- I can only think that it's because it's the school's Southern campus -- UNR's teams are called the Wolfpack, like at North Carolina State. They play football at the 27,000-seat Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium, which opened in 1966. 1664 N. Virginia Street.
They won the Far West Conference in 1932, 1933 and 1939; the Big Sky Conference in 1983, 1986, 1990 and 1991; the Big West Conference in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997; and the Western Athletic Conference in 2005 and 2010, for a total of 14 Conference Championships. They are now in the Mountain West Conference.

They play basketball at the 11,784-seat Lawlor Events Center, which opened in 1983. 1500 N. Virginia Street. They've won their conference 22 times in the regular season (including 2017 and 2018), and 5 times in the tournament (each time also winning the regular season title, including in 2017), but the closest they've gotten to a National Championship is the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen in 2004. While they are the more successful school in football, UNLV is way ahead of them in basketball.
This arena also hosted a Heavyweight Championship fight, with Holmes defending the title by beating Carl "The Truth" Williams on May 20, 1985.

The Reno area has hosted other Heavyweight Championship fights. The only other recent one was Lennox Lewis defeating Henry Akinwande at Caesars Tahoe on July 12, 1997. Before that, it was a common boxing site, because of its lax laws. Bob Fitzsimmons took the title from Gentleman Jim Corbett at the Race Track Arena in Carson City on March 17, 1897. Marvin Hart and Jack Root fought for the vacancy in the title caused by the retirement of Jim Jeffries, with Hart winning on July 3, 1905.

But in 1908, Jack Jackson had become the 1st black Heavyweight Champion of the World, and fans searched for a "Great White Hope" who could take it back from him. Finally, after other fighters proved not good enough, Jeffries answered the constant call of, "Jeff, it's up to you!" He was well past it, and well out of shape. He lost a lot of weight, but in the brutal Northern Nevada heat on July 4, 1910, Johnson knocked him out in the 15th round. Jeffries admitted to reporters, "I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. I couldn't have hit him. No, I couldn't have reached him in a thousand years." Johnson lasted 5 more years as champ.

The site of this 1st "Fight of the Century," the 1st big fight promoted by George "Tex" Rickard -- later to build what we now call "the old Madison Square Garden" and the original Boston Garden -- and also of the Hart-Root fight was built at what was then the eastern edge of the city, where Reno Salvage now stands. 301 Montello Street, at E. 4th Street.

* Museums. Las Vegas doesn't want you to go to museums. They want you to gamble, and to drink, so that you can gamble some more. That's why the casino floors don't have clocks or windows: So you won't know how long you've been gambling. As Doc Pomus wrote for Elvis: "Turning day into nighttime, turning night into daytime." Or, as Bernie Taupin wrote for Elton, although he was talking about New York, "Unless they see the sky -- but they can't, and that is why they know not if it's dark outside or light."

(Atlantic City's casinos also don't have clocks, and while they have back entrances to the Boardwalk, there's space between them and the casino floors, and the door windows are tinted, so you can't tell if it's day or night.)

But Vegas does have museums. Alas, the best-known is The Mob Museum, dedicated to the city's organized crime, begun in 1946 when Benjamin Siegel (he hated being called "Bugsy") opened the Flamingo at 3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd. The Mob Museum is at 300 Stewart Avenue, downtown. A few blocks away, between The Mob Museum and Cashman Field, are the Neon Museum and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and 770 and 900 N. Las Vegas Blvd., respectively.

The most significant historic site anywhere near Las Vegas isn't that near. It's Hoover Dam, straddling, and using for electrical power, the Colorado River, at Boulder City, Nevada and Willow Beach, Arizona. Both Southern Nevada and Southern California as we have come to know them could not exist without it.

It was named Boulder Dam when it opened in 1936, it was renamed in 1947 for former President Herbert Hoover, who authorized its construction. The renaming was done by a Republican Congress, but Democratic President Harry Truman, who had become friends with Hoover and admired what he did when he wasn't President, and had no problem with signing it into law.

U.S. Route 93 used to run atop the Dam, but it was just a 2-lane road, so a bypass bridge was built. The Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in 2010, named for a figure from each State: Governor Callaghan of Nevada, and Tillman, the Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals football player who left the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army after the 9/11 attacks and was killed in action in Afghanistan (by, as it turned out, "friendly fire").

The Dam is about 30 miles southeast of Vegas. There's no public transportation, but most of the hotels run a private bus or van service there.
The Grand Canyon? 125 miles to the east, including past Hoover Dam -- or, given how the roads had to be built, southeast, then northeast. Again, you should be able to find a hotel with private service that will do both the Dam and the Canyon.

No President has ever come from Nevada. Nor has any Vice President. Nor has any Nevada-based politician come particularly close. The highest-ranking one, as far as I know, is the recently-retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Nor has any President had a vacation home, a "Western White House," in Nevada, although Jack Kennedy liked to hang out with Sinatra and his pals at the Sands. He had to stop doing so while President, for fear of being connected with organized crime -- which ultimately led to the split between the President and the Chairman of the Board.

(This also led to Peter Lawford, who married JFK's sister Pat, being excommunicated from the Rat Pack. Frank's switch from Democrat to Nixon- and Reagan-supporting Republican came later, and had little to do with the Kennedy family.)

The most famous TV show set in Nevada, and one of the greatest shows set anywhere, was the Western Bonanza, which aired on NBC from 1959 to 1973. The title comes from the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, a silver vein, in Storey County near Lake Tahoe. In real life, the city of Virginia City was built nearby, and, on the show, Benjamin Cartwright (played by Lorne Greene) built his Ponderosa Ranch there ("Ponderosa" was the Spanish name for the area's tall pine trees), where he lived with his sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Eric, a.k.a. Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Joseph, a.k.a. Little Joe (Michael Landon).

At Virginia City's peak, in the mid-1870s, it had about 25,000 people, and rivaled San Francisco for financial and cultural influence in the Western U.S. But the glory days only lasted about 20 years: A "Great Fire" burned much of the city in 1875, and by the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881, Virginia City was all over as a boomtown. By the 20th Century, the Wild West was done, and the place was already a period piece. In the 2010 Census, there were 855 permanent residents, and only 4,000 in the entire County.

But people still go there as tourists, to see remnants of the Wild West, and to take in the atmosphere of Bonanza, still seen in reruns on nostalgia-TV channels. It's 425 miles northwest of Las Vegas, 26 miles southeast of Reno, 16 miles northeast of Carson City.

But don't go looking for the actual show set: That was at RKO Forty Acres in Hollywood. A Ponderosa Ranch theme park opened in Incline Village in 1967, with a mockup of the Cartwright house. It was closed in 2004. It was adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Diamond Peak Ski Resort, about 30 miles west of the real Virginia City, and 30 miles southwest of Reno, from which the Blue Bus makes the trip -- $49 each way.

Other TV shows set in Nevada include Reno 911!; and these, all in Las Vegas: The 1978-81 ABC crime drama Vega$Crime Story (a 1980s NBC period piece set in early 1960s Chicago and Las Vegas), the 2003-08 NBC drama Las Vegas, the 2005 poker-themed ESPN series Tilt, and the original version of CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

And lots of TV shows have done a trip-to-Vegas episode, including Perfect Strangers (Balki wins a trip, and is thrilled, because he loves Wayne Newton, but Cousin Larry develops a gambling problem), Full House (Uncle Joey opens for Wayne Newton), Roseanne (Roseanne mistakes the real Wayne for an impersonator and heckles him), and Friends (Joey's film shoot there is canceled, and Monica and Chandler's plan to get married in Vegas falls apart when Ross and Rachel, drunkenly, actually do).

Movies set in Las Vegas include Ocean's Eleven (both versions, Frank Sinatra's of 1960 and George Clooney's of 2001), Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley sings, races cars, and romances Ann-Margret), The Godfather (Michael Corleone vs. Moe Green), Over the Top (Sylvester Stallone in an arm-wrestling tournament), Midnight Run (Robert De Niro as a bounty hunter vs. Crime Story's Dennis Farina as a Mob boss in McCarran Airport), Rain Man (Tom Cruise teaches Dustin Hoffman how to count cards), Bugsy (Warren Beatty plays Ben Siegel and meets Annette Bening), Cool World, Indecent ProposalCasino (De Niro again), Showgirls, National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, Fools Rush In, a film version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Pay It Forward, Rush Hour 2, The Cooler, Resident Evil: Extinction, 21, The Hangover and Last Vegas.

James Bond went there in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever. Sean Connery's Bond seeks revenge on Ernst Stavro Blofeld for the death of his wife, and gets help from Jimmy Dean (the country singer and sausage magnate plays a Howard Hughes analogue) Lana Wood (Natalie's sister), and Jill St. John. In 1997, Mike Myers parodied Bond with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, playing both the Bond type (Powers) and the Blofeld type (Dr. Evil), whose Number Two was played by Robert Wagner -- who, in real life, married Natalie Wood and Jill St. John.

Nicolas Cage made a hobby of Vegas: Honeymoon In Vegas, Leaving Las Vegas and Con Air. The documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is showed Elvis rehearsing for, and then playing, his Vegas show in August 1970. Vegas movies with an Elvis tie-in include the aforementioned Honeymoon In Vegas and 3000 Miles to Graceland.

The 38 tallest buildings in Nevada are in and around Las Vegas. You have to get to the 39th-tallest to find one in Reno or anywhere else. The Stratosphere Tower, at 2000 S. Las Vegas Blvd., is 1,150 feet high, but by the definition set out by the governing body for such things, it's not a "building." (Although the much-shorter casino-hotel attached to it is.)

Therefore, the "tallest building" in Nevada is The Palazzo, 642 feet, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It will be replaced by the 735-foot The Drew Las Vegas, currently under construction at 2755 S. Las Vegas Blvd., with an intended opening of late 2020.

You may have heard that prostitution is legal in Nevada. This is partly true. However, it is illegal in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and the adjoining suburbs, including every casino-hotel; Lincoln County, to the north of Clark; Washoe County, which includes Reno; Douglas County, also near Reno, which includes Stateline, which is on Lake Tahoe (there is no city named Lake Tahoe); and the independent city of Carson City, the State capital.

As for getting married in Nevada, no blood test or waiting period is required. And Las Vegas makes it even easier: Once a short form is completed, and it and $77 are submitted to the marriage license bureau, you can get a marriage license within minutes, the ceremony can be performed, and it's legal in all 50 States. But don't do this. Anyone worth marrying is worth a real wedding.

Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Southern California's original tourist destination, outside of the Hollywood studios. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Devils fans in going to see the new NHL team. And remember: If "What happens in Vegas" is a Devils win," don't let it stay in Vegas!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

How to Be a Devils Fan In Arizona -- 2019 Edition

Why would you want to go to Arizona? Well, if you're a New Jersey Devils fan, they're playing the Arizona Coyotes (formerly the Phoenix Coyotes, and before that the original Winnipeg Jets) this coming Friday night.

You may not have many more chances to see the Coyotes in their current form, at their current home. With the Islanders now ensconced in Brooklyn, and the Atlanta Thrashers having become the new Winnipeg Jets, the 'Yotes are now the NHL most likely to move. How likely? They've been in danger of it since at least 2009, and their current arena lease runs only through the end of the current season.

The current Phoenix hockey team is called the Coyotes, and the old one, playing there in the World Hockey Association from 1974 to 1977, was called the Roadrunners. Coyote and Roadrunner. "Meep meep!"

Before You Go. AZcentral.com, the website for Phoenix's largest newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is predicting the mid-60s for Friday afternoon, and the mid-40s for the evening. So the legendary Arizona "dry heat" won't be an issue. Still, you'll want to bring a jacket.

UPDATE: According to a January 30, 2019 article in Thrillist:  

Occasionally, retired Kroger business executives from Ohio and their Pilates-instructor second wives will accidentally move to Flagstaff and get very sad and angry when they realize the average winter temperature is somewhere in the 20s. But most of Arizona offers up that dry desert day heat that is good for arthritis and any lingering guilt about leaving their first wives to deal with their delinquent teenage kids back in Indian Hill.    

Arizona's infamous Daylight Savings Time issue has been settled: The State is on Mountain Time when New York is on Daylight Savings Time, and on Pacific Time when we're on Standard Time. This isn't the DST time of year. So you'll be on Mountain Time, 2 hours behind New Jersey and New York City. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

If you're thinking of making a side trip into Mexico, you should know that it's a 4-hour drive at the least. No public transportation. You'll need a passport, and you'll also need Mexican driving insurance, which you might be able to get at the Mexican consulate in Phoenix. In other words, it's not really worth the trip.

Tickets. The Coyotes averaged 13,040 fans per home game last season, and even that was a drop over the season before. It's only 76 percent of their arena's seating capacity. Only the Islanders averaged fewer fans per game, and only the Isles and the Carolina Hurricanes had a lower capacity. Now who's "a Mickey Mouse operation on the ice," former Coyotes owner Wayne Gretzky?

Getting tickets will not be hard: You could probably show up at the arena box office 5 minutes before puck-drop, and get any ticket you can afford.

With the law of supply and demand, Coyotes tickets are among the cheapest in the NHL. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $114 between the goals and $60 behind them. In the upper level, the 200 sections, seats are $51 between the goals and $27 behind them.

Getting There. It's 2,458 miles from Times Square downtown Phoenix, and 2,444 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Gila River Arena in Glendale. In other words, if you're going, you're flying.

You think I'm kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need nearly 2 full days to get there. One way.

But, if you really, really want to... You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's first superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you'll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern panhandle of West Virginia, and then across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, into Missouri.

At St. Louis, take Exit 40C onto Interstate 44 West, which will take you southwest across Missouri into Oklahoma. Upon reaching Oklahoma City, take Interstate 40 West, through the rest of the State, across the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, into Arizona.  At Flagstaff, take Interstate 17 South, which will take you into Phoenix. Take Interstate 10 West to Exit 133B, which will lead you to State Route 101. Take Exit 6 to the arena/stadium complex

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Indiana, another 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours in Missouri, 6 hours in Oklahoma, 3 hours in Texas, 6 hours and 15 minutes in New Mexico, and 5 hours and 30 minutes in Arizona. That's about 42 hours. Counting rest stops, you're probably talking about 55 hours.

That's still faster than Greyhound, averaging around 68 hours, including a 1:45 bus-change in Richmond, a 1:15 stopover in Charlotte, an hour's bus-change in Atlanta, an hour's stopover in Birmingham, a 45-minute stopover in Jackson, Mississippi, an hour's stopover in Shreveport, a 1:30 bus-change in Dallas (that's right, changing buses 3 times each way), and a 1:15 stopover in El Paso.

It's $630 round-trip ($489 with advanced purchase). The station is at 2115 East Buckeye Road, adjacent to Sky Harbor International Airport. Number 13 bus to downtown.

Forget Amtrak. Between the fact that the Sunset Limited, the Jacksonville-to-Los Angeles train, only runs 3 times a week, and a 35-mile distance between Maricopa Station and downtown Phoenix, and Monday being New Year's Day, it just doesn't make sense.

United Airlines can get you round-trip from Newark to Sky Harbor for under $500, but you'd have to change planes, most likely in Chicago. 

Once In the City. While the Coyotes (as do MLB's Diamondbacks and the NFL's Cardinals, but not the NBA's Suns) have the State name as their geographic identifier -- apparently from a Native American word meaning "small spring" -- they play in the metropolitan area of Arizona's State capital, Phoenix.

Jack Swilling, a Confederate veteran who founded the place in 1867, accepted the suggestion of a fellow settler, an Englishman named Lord Duppa: Since it was on the site of a previous Indian civilization, it should be named Phoenix, for the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes. The city was incorporated in 1881, making it the youngest city in American major league sports.
The State House in Phoenix

Home to just 100,000 people in 1950, Phoenix saw huge growth in the 2nd half of the 20th Century: 440,000 by 1960, 580,000 by 1970, 800,000 by 1980, and it surpassed the 1 million mark in the early 1990s. It's 1.6 million now, with about 4.6 million people in the metropolitan area.

All this made it an expansion target. The NBA's expansion Suns arrived in 1968. The NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1988, changing their name from the Phoenix Cardinals to the Arizona Cardinals in 1993. The USFL's Arizona Wranglers played there in 1984, and became the Arizona Outlaws the following year. This was around the time that the Philadelphia Eagles nearly moved there due to owner Leonard Tose's fractured finances.

The MLB team that became the Diamondbacks was awarded in 1995, to begin play in 1998. And the NHL's 1st Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1997, changing their name to the Arizona Coyotes in 2013. This was after the World Hockey Association had the Phoenix Roadrunners in the 1970s -- and, yes, I'm well aware of the cartoon connection: Roadrunners replaced by Coyotes. The WNBA's Phoenix Mercury also began play in 1997. Today, the Suns are the only Phoenix-area team to keep the city's name as their identifier, rather than the State's name.

The sales tax in Arizona is 5.6 percent, but it's 8.3 percent within the City of Phoenix. ZIP Codes for Arizona start with the digits 85 and 86, and the Area Codes are 602 (for Phoenix), 480 and 623 (for the suburbs). Arizona Public Service provides electricity and water. The Phoenix metropolitan area has a population that is about 58 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black, 3 percent Asian, and 3 percent Native American. 

Central Avenue is the source street for east-west house numbers; oddly, the north-south streets are numbered Streets to the east, and numbered Avenues to the west. Washington Street divides addresses into north and south. State Route 101 forms a partial "outer beltway," while Interstates 10 (north and east) and 17 (south and west) form an "inner beltway." A single ride on Phoenix buses and Valley Metro Rail is $2.00, with an All-Day Pass a bargain at $4.00. 
A Valley Metro Rail train

Going In. The Glendale Sports & Entertainment District, in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, consists of State Farm Stadium, home to the Arizona Cardinals since 2006; and the Gila River Arena, home to the Coyotes since 2003. (Until 2018, the stadium was known as University of Phoenix Stadium. There is an actual University of Phoenix, on the ground, not just on the Internet. But that's not here.) 

The complex is about 17 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix. The official address of the stadium is 1 Cardinals Drive, and that of the arena is 9400 W. Maryland Avenue. Number 8 bus from downtown to 7th & Glendale Avenues, then transfer to Number 70 bus, to Glendale and 95th Avenue, then walk down 95th. If you drive in, parking starts at $10.

New York Tri-State Area sports fans know the stadium as the site of Super Bowl XLII, where the Giants derailed the New England Patriots' bid for the NFL's first 19-0 season. The Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles there in January 2009 to advance to Super Bowl XLIII. The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers there in Super Bowl XLIX. It is scheduled to host Super Bowl LVII on February 5, 2023.

The stadium is also home to the Fiesta Bowl, and thus has hosted what has amounted to 3 National Championship Games: 2006-07, Florida over Ohio State; 2010-11, Auburn over Oregon; and 2015-16, Alabama over Clemson.

In 2017, it became the 1st building in Arizona to host a Final Four, with North Carolina defeating Gonzaga in the Final. It's hosted 3 matches of the U.S. soccer team, most recently a 1-0 loss to Colombia in the 2016 Copa America. (UPDATE: On January 27, 2019, it hosted a 3-0 win over Panama.)
Gila River Arena, under its former name Jobing.com Arena,
between State Farm Stadium and the Westgate Mall

Formerly the Jobing.com Arena, named for an employment-service website, Gila River Casinos, run by local Native American tribes, now holds naming rights to the arena. The rink is laid out north-to-south. The Coyotes attack twice toward the south end.
Since the Suns' arena is downtown, the Coyotes' arena doesn't get many concert tours. It averages 14 non-hockey events a year -- so, not counting any Playoff games the Coyotes host, that's 55 dates a year, out of 365 days (366 in leap years such as 2016 or 2020). Not good. The stadium is a moneymaker, but the arena is not.

The reason the Coyotes left the downtown arena in the first place is because its retrofit meant losing about 2,000 seats for hockey, resulting in poor revenue, but they don't control this arena, either, and aren't making much money off it. Hence, they may still have to move. If they do, the Glendale Entertainment District might as well just move the arena's concert operations to the stadium and tear the arena down.

Last year, Arizona State University killed a deal for a new arena on ASU's Tempe campus, which would be home to the Coyotes and ASU's basketball team. The Coyotes would've picked up half the cost, and the taxpayers of the State of Arizona the other half.

As I write this, the Coyotes' long-term future in Arizona is once again in doubt. The Suns currently have no plans to leave their 1992-built home, now named the Talking Stick Resort Arena, so they won't be going halfsies with the Coyotes on a new arena.

Food. As a Southwestern city, you might expect Phoenix to have Mexican, Spanish, Western and Southwestern food themes. Which is the case. Tortilla Flats stands are on the Plaza Concourse outside of sections 102 and 230. Chuckwagon Grill, specializing in burgers, has locations on the Plaza Concourse outside of sections 109 and 212. Koko Pollo (chicken) is on the Plaza Concourse outside of section 204.

They also have Papa John's Pizza outside sections 115 and 219; the Yotes Head Pub at 103; Big City Reds Center Ice (hot dogs and chili) at 111, 122, 202 and 2014; Boars Head Deli at 110 and 120; Vienna Beef (hot dogs) at 114 and 217; AZ Cheesesteaks and Sausages at 119 and 227; Taste of Belgium (drinks including Stella Artois beer) at 122; End Cap Bars at 102, 110, 114 and 120; Dreyers Ice Cream (not Breyers) at 111 and 122; and Dippin Dots at 102, 110, 204 and 219.

Team History Displays. As one of the newer teams (due to their move), the Coyotes don't have a lot of history, and they don't hang banners for what they won as the original Winnipeg Jets. Their only championship banner is for their 2012 Pacific Division Championship, when they were still known as the Phoenix Coyotes, the name they used from 1996 to 2014. 
Yup, that's all they got.

This is the only division title the Jets/Coyotes franchise has won in the NHL. Their last one before that was in 1979, when they won the last World Hockey Association Championship. The 2011-12 season is also the only time they've reached the last 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (The Jets won 3 WHA titles in 4 trips to the Finals.)

The Coyotes have 6 retired numbers, not counting the Number 99 retired through the entire NHL for Wayne Gretzky, who was the team's main owner. All of these, including Gretzky's, are displayed on the Coyotes Ring of Honor.

Center Keith Tkacuk, Number 7, and defenseman Teppo Numminen, Number 27, spanned both Winnipeg and Phoenix. Center Jeremy Roenick, Number 97, is the only one featured who played for the franchise only in Phoenix, never in Winnipeg. Left wing Bobby Hull, Number 9; center Dale Hawerchuk, Number 10; and right wing Thomas Steen, Number 25, all played for them only in Winnipeg, never in Phoenix.

Hull and Steen had their numbers retired in Winnipeg, but they were unretired in Phoenix. Still, those numbers have remained unworn, with 1 brief exception: Bobby's son, Brett Hull, briefly played for the Coyotes and wore 9

It has been announced that the 19 worn by Shane Doan will be retired on February 24, 2019. Doan played the last season in Winnipeg, making him the last active original Winnipeg Jet, and the 1st 21 in Arizona. He recently retired having played more NHL games without winning the Stanley Cup (or even reaching the Finals) than any other player, 1,595 (counting his 55 Playoff games).
Only 2 members of the Hockey Hall of Fame have ever played for the Coyotes since their move to Arizona: Mike Gartner, for 2 seasons, 1996-98; and Brett Hull, briefly, in 2005. (No, Roenick has not yet been elected.) Numminen has been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame.

Bobby Hull received the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America, and was named to The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players in 1998. He was one of several of the old Winnipeg Jets to be named to the WHA All-Time Team: The others were Ulf and Kent Nilsson, Anders Hedberg, Joe Daley, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Ernie Wakely, Ted Green and Terry Ruskowski. Robbie Ftorek, who played for the Phoenix Roadrunners, was also named to the WHA All-Time Team. Dave Silk and Dave Christian from the 1980 U.S. Olympic team played for the old Jets.

There is an Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, but the only Coyotes player yet elected to it is Doan. Also in it is Jerry Colangelo, but he's in for what he did with the Suns and, secondarily, the Diamondbacks.

Stuff. The Coyotes' Den is located in the northwest corner of the arena, by Gate 3. You can find the usual team-themed stuff there. Perhaps, due to Arizona's Western heritage, you can find cowboy hats with the team's logo on them.

With hardly any history, there's no team highlight DVDs, and the only book I could find about the team was Laura Winters' entry for them in the NHL's Inside the NHL series, published last year.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Coyotes' fans 30th in the League -- dead last: "In seats and on Twitter, Dogs' fan base is microscopic despite respectable play."

In other words, they're not nasty fans, or stupid fans; they simply don't have enough fans. Gee, maybe that could be explained by having an arena far from the center of the metropolitan area. Or by the metro area being, you know, in Arizona, a hot-weather city which never should have had an NHL team in the first place!

Wearing Devils gear in Arizona will not endanger your safety. As a franchise only in their 20th season, the Coyotes don't really have a rivalry yet; and if they did, it wouldn't be with the Devils. For the most part, Arizona fans are okay, not making trouble for fans of teams playing the NFL Cardinals, NBA Suns or MLB's Diamondbacks, either. In fact, their biggest rivalry is intrastate: The University of Arizona vs. Arizona State University. It's a heated rivalry... but it's a dry heat.

The Friday game against the Devils will not feature a promotion. Patrick Lauder has sung the National Anthem for the Coyotes since the return from the lockout in 2005, after having done so several times since the team's arrival in 1996. The goal song is "Howlin' for You" by the Black Keys.
Patrick Lauder wearing a Coyotes throwback jersey

The mascot is Howler the Coyote. He wears uniform Number 96, in honor of the team's 1996 arrival. He seems to think the Coyotes do have a rivalry, with the Anaheim Ducks. And he does kind of look like Wile E. Coyote, albeit not nearly as thin and with shorter ears.
Arizona fans have their own Southwestern spin on the Detroit tradition of throwing an octopus onto the ice: They throw rubber snakes. At least, I hope they're rubber, and not real.

After the Game. Be advised that outgoing traffic from this game may run into incoming traffic for the NFL Playoff game in which the Cardinals will host the Green Bay Packers.

Phoenix does have crime issues, but you should be safe as long as you stay downtown. What's more, the arena is in the suburbs. It's incredibly unlikely that Coyote fans will bother you, and the fact that the Devils aren't rivals to them helps.

This is a matinee, so the Westgate Mall, to the north across Coyotes Blvd., will be open after the game if you want to do some postgame dining or shopping. A McFadden's is outside the arena at the northwest corner, and a Saddle Ranch Chophouse at the northeast corner.

As for anything New York-friendly, the closest I can come at this time is a place called Tim Finnegan's, the local Jets fan hangout, but that's 11 miles north of downtown, at 9201 North 29th Avenue. It appears that the local football Giants fan club meets at the Blue Moose, at 7373 East Scottsdale Mall, 13 miles northeast of downtown. I've also heard that Loco Patron, at 1327 E. Chandler Blvd., is a Giants fan hangout, but that's 21 miles south. I've read that a Yankee Fan hangout is at LagerFields Sports Grill, at 12601 N. Paradise Village Pkwy. W., 14 miles northeast of downtown. Alas, I can find nothing Mets-specific in the area.

If you visit Phoenix during the European soccer season, as we are now in, the best "football pub" in Arizona is the George & Dragon Pub, which opens at 7:00 AM on matchdays. 4240 N. Central Avenue, about 3 miles north of downtown. Bus 13 to Buckeye Road & Central Avenue, then transfer to Bus ZERO to Farrington Lane. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, or you'd prefer to stay downtown, in which case you can go to the Rose and Crown, at 628 E. Adams Street, 2 blocks north of the ballpark.

Sidelights. Phoenix's sports history is relatively brief, and not very successful. But there are some notable locations.

On November 30, 2018, about a month ago, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Phoenix came in 21st. 

* Chase Field and Talking Stick Resort Arena. The capital of Arizona sports is 2 buildings separated by 2 blocks and the Jefferson Street Garage, which provides parking for both.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have played since their 1998 inception at Chase Field, a retractable-roof stadium, originally named Bank One Ballpark, and having that name during what remains the Diamondbacks' only World Series thus far, 2001. It looks like a big airplane hangar, without much atmosphere. True, there is that pool in the right-center-field corner... but what's a pool doing at a ballpark?

Major League Baseball is now concerned enough about developments at Chase Field that it might force the Diamondbacks to move.

The Talking Stick Resort Arena, previously known as the US Airways Center and the AmericaWest Arena for a previous airline, it is 2 blocks west of Chase Field, at 2nd & Jefferson. The Suns have played here since 1992, and the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury since 1997. The Coyotes played here from 1996 to 2003.
Chase Field, with Talking Stick Resort Arena
behind it and to the left

The arena's address is 201 E. Jefferson Street, and the ballpark's is 401 E. Jefferson Street. Both buildings can be reached on Metro Light Rail via the Jefferson Street & 3rd Street station.

* Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Grand Canyon State's 1st home to big-league sports, opening in 1965, was home to the Suns from their 1968 arrival until 1992, and to the World Hockey Association's Phoenix Roadrunners from 1974 to 1977.

Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum on September 9, 1970, and again on April 22, 1973. Early in his career, on June 9, 1956, he sang at a grandstand at the adjoining Arizona State Fairgrounds. The next day, he sang at the Rodeo Grounds in Tucson. He also sang at the Tucson Community Center on November 9, 1972 and June 1, 1976. (While individual ex-Beatles have performed in Arizona, the band as a whole did not do so on any of their 3 North American tours.)

The Coliseum still stands, and is part of the State Fairgrounds. 1826 W. McDowell Road. Northwest of downtown. Number 15 bus to 15th & McDowell, then 3 blocks west.

* Phoenix Municipal Stadium. This ballpark was home to the Phoenix Giants/Firebirds from its opening in 1964 until 1991, and is the current spring training home of the Oakland Athletics, the Diamondbacks' Rookie League team, and Arizona's State high school baseball championship. 5999 E. Van Buren Street. East of downtown, take the Light Rail to Priest Drive/Washington station, then a short walk up Priest.

* Scottsdale Stadium. This stadium was home to the Firebirds in their last years, 1992 to 1997. Its seating capacity of 12,000, 4,000 more than Phoenix Municipal, was meant to showcase the Phoenix area as a potential major league market. It's the San Francisco Giants' spring training site, and replaced a previous stadium on the site that dated to 1956, used as a spring training home for the Giants, A's, Red Sox, Orioles and Cubs -- sometimes all at the same time.

Because it was the Cubs' spring training home, thus leading to Phoenix becoming "Chicago's Miami," where retirees from the city tend to go (paging Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post & ESPN's Pardon the Interruption & NBA coverage), it was where former Cub catcher Randy Hundley hosted the very first baseball fantasy camp. As Met fans, you might remember Randy's furious reaction to Tommie Agee scoring on a controversial umpiring call at home plate at Shea in September 1969. You might also remember Randy's son, former Met catcher Todd Hundley.

7408 E. Osborn Road, at Drinkwater Boulevard. Northeast of downtown. Light Rail to Veterans Way/College station, then transfer to Number 72 bus to Osborn, then walk 2 blocks east.

* Arizona State University. The University of Arizona is 114 miles away in Tuscon, but ASU is just a 24-minute Light Rail ride from downtown. The station is at 5th Street & Veterans Way, and is 2 blocks away from Sun Devil Stadium and the Wells Fargo Arena, home to their football and basketball teams, respectively.

Sun Devil Stadium was built in 1958, and ASU still plays there rather than move to the larger, more modern (but well off-campus) University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals played there from 1988 to 2005, and the Fiesta Bowl was held there from 1971 to 2006. This included what amounted to the National Championship Game 5 times: 1986-87, Penn State over Miami; 1988-89, Notre Dame over West Virginia; 1995-96, Nebraska over Florida; 1998-99, Tennessee over Florida State; and 2002-03, Ohio State over Miami.

The Dallas Cowboys treated it as a second home field when they played the Cardinals (mainly because there always seemed to be more Cowboy fans there), and won Super Bowl XXX there, when the world learned A) it was possible for the Pittsburgh Steelers to lose a Super Bowl, and B) Terry Bradshaw was smart compared to Neil O'Donnell. It also hosted 2 U.S. soccer team matches in the 1990s.


The Wells Fargo Arena was previously known as the ASU Activity Center. Elvis sang there on March 23, 1977.

Packard Stadium, opened in 1974, is home to the ASU baseball program, one of the most successful college baseball teams, east of the stadium and arena, at Rural Road and Rio Salado Parkway. The Sun Devils have won 5 National Championships, most recently in 1981. Their legends include Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, and current stars Dustin Pedroia and Andre Ethier. Notable ASU and Met alumni include Gary Gentry, Duffy Dyer, Lenny Randle, Craig Swan, Hubie Brooks, Paul Lo Duca and Ike Davis.

ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, at the other end of the campus, hosted one of the 2004 Presidential Debates between George W. Bush and John Kerry. 1200 S. Forest Avenue.

The US Airways Center, Wells Fargo Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, and the University of Arizona's McKale Center have all hosted NCAA basketball tournament games. UA has been in the Final Four in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2001, winning it all in 1997; but ASU has never gotten any closer than the Sweet 16, in 1995.

The highest-ranking pro soccer team in Arizona is Phoenix Rising FC, in the United Soccer League, our 2nd division. They play at the rather unimaginatively-named Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex, which seats 6,200. 751 N. McClintock Drive, in Scottsdale, 10 miles east of downtown Phoenix. It takes 4 buses over 2 hours to get there, so if you don't have a car, forget it. 

Presuming Major League Soccer's current expansion wave passes Phoenix by, the closest MLS teams are the 2 in Los Angeles, 375 (LAFC) and 376 (LA Galaxy) miles to the west, respectively. The San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake are considerably further away.

* Arizona Science Center. Phoenix is not a big museum center. And while there have been Native Americans living in Phoenix for thousands of years, and Spaniards/Mexicans for hundreds, its Anglo history is rather short. No Arizonan has ever become President (although Senators Barry Goldwater and John McCain got nominated), so there's no Presidential Library or Museum. And it doesn't help history buffs that the city only goes back to 1867, and Statehood was gained only in 1912. But the Science Center is at 4th & Washington, just a block from the ballpark. And Arizona State has a renowned Art Museum.

The tallest building in Phoenix, and in all of Arizona, is the Chase Tower, bounded by Central Avenue and Van Buren, 1st and Monroe Streets. That it's only 483 feet, and that no taller building has been built in the city since it opened in 1972, says something about this city, but I'm not sure what. But the city seems to be intent on growing outward, not upward.

Television shows set in Phoenix, or anywhere in Arizona, are few and far between. The High Chaparral, another Western created by Bonanza creator David Dortort, ran on NBC from 1967 to 1971, and is fondly remembered by some. Medium was set in the Maricopa County District Attorney's office in Phoenix.

But the best-remembered show is Alice, starring Linda Lavin as one of several waitresses at fictional Mel's Diner, running on CBS from 1976 to 1985. Although the show was taped in Hollywood (Burbank, actually), that once-famous "14-ounce coffee cup" sign is still used outside a real working diner in Phoenix. It was Lester's, until the owner agreed to change the name to "Mel's Diner" for the publicity. Today, it's Pat's Family Diner, at 1747 NW Grand Avenue, 2 miles northwest of downtown. Number 15 bus to 15th Avenue & Pierce Street, and then walk one block east to Grand, Pierce, and 12th. There are also still-in-business diners in Ohio and Florida that use the same sign design. "Pickup!"

Movies set in modern-day Arizona usually show the Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam. Notable on this list is Thelma & Louise, in which Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon drive a 1966 Ford Thunderbird into the Canyon rather than be captured by the FBI, enacting a distaff version of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance KidNational Lampoon's Vacation and Natural Born Killers also used Arizona as a backdrop.

The vast majority of movies set in Arizona have been Westerns, including the 1957 and 2007 versions of 3:10 to Yuma, the 1950 film Broken Arrow (not the later John Travolta film of the same title), Fort Apache (not the later Paul Newman film set in The Bronx), Paul Newman's Hombre, Johnny Guitar, A Million Ways to Die In the West, No Name On the Bullet, and all the films based on the 1881 Earps vs. Clantons gunfight, including My Darling Clementine in 1946, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1957, Tombstone in 1993 and Wyatt Earp in 1994. While not a Western, Revenge of the Nerds was filmed at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

If you're a Western buff, and you want to see the site of the legendary gunfight, the official address is 326 East Allen Street, Tombstone, AZ 85638. Reenactments are held daily. Be advised, though, that it's 184 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix, a 3-hour drive, and ain't no Greyhound or Amtrak service, stranger. It's also just 50 miles from the Mexican border.

And the other 2 things in Arizona that everybody talks about? The Grand Canyon Skywalk is 262 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, and Hoover Dam 269 miles. They're 96 road miles apart, but about half that as the crow flies. 

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If you go to Phoenix to see the Devils play the Coyotes, you won't be subjected to Arizona's usual intense heat, and you can probably see a hockey game relatively cheap. Have fun!