By Mike Henle
For everyone who would like to experience the continued rise of the National Hockey League’s latest success story, there is actually something special about a bar at City National Arena in Summerlin.
The Golden Knights have defied all odds and soared to first place in the NHL’s Western Division while packing T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. Each game sports crowds of more than 18,000 fans; and tickets are not only pricey, but hard to find, too.
But that’s OK, because this success story is generating more positive PR for Las Vegas than money can buy. Ice hockey has replaced college basketball in the fever of athletics and if the Golden Knights continue at the current pace, the recovery from the Great Recession is certain to be in the rear view mirror before long.
In reality, if the Golden Knights continue their streak as the greatest expansion team in the history of the NHL, this particular story could surpass the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebel team that captured the NCAA college basketball national title when it electrified the country.
On this particular night Jan. 2, the Golden Knights were again on the run packing T-Mobile Arena where the team would go on to score a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators, a team that made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2017.
First year teams in the NHL don’t generally have the success of the Golden Knights and when I heard that there was another home to call home, we journeyed to MacKenzie River Pub Grill Pub to watch the game.
Only a few miles from our home, MacKenzie River Pub Grill Pub wasn’t quite like T-Mobile Arena, although the atmosphere was there, for sure. With about 10 televisions stationed throughout the restaurant along with about 250 fans cheering on every move, it was certainly a good second choice to watch the game.
There was a wide array of fans in attendance ranging from someone from the Clark County Public Defender’s office along with a handful of retirees looking for some fun. Ten minutes before the first faceoff, attendees were busy watching pre-game interviews aired on the television station.
Smoke free, MacKenzie River Pub has a nice setting with a pair of hockey rinks on each side of the restaurant. There are youngsters at one rink, and adults on the other, in what has turned into a hub of activity about a sport that has erupted in popularity in the past few months.
In fact, if there was a problem with MacKenzie River Pub, it was the fact that two of the hardest-working employees on earth were stretched thin in their efforts to keep their customers happy with food and drink.
Considering that I’m a former busboy at both the Mint Hotel in downtown Las Vegas and the Sahara Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1960s and 1970s, I instantly noticed that there weren’t any busboys to help the waiter and waitress.
To their credit, the two servers at MacKenzie River Pub were not only friendly, but damned good servers, too – and the food and drink was good, too. Their profession can be brutally difficult, they maintained smiles and somehow managed to keep up the pace of a young, but very popular restaurant packed with hockey fans.
Considering that I’m a true people-watcher, I like hanging out with the common folks, and this was no different. MacKenzie River is my kind of place to watch a hockey game and I can only imagine how cool the environment will be when Las Vegas 51s general manager Don Logan finally moves into the Pacific Coast Club’s new stadium in a few years.
In fact, I have been thinking about a possible fun series where I re-visit my past, one of which was my years as a bus boy. If I ever get the opportunity to showcase my past history, MacKenzie River Pub will be one of my first stops since it highlights hard-working common folks whose work ethic is admirable.
Already a hub of activity, the addition of professional baseball and hockey is the perfect complement to the Red Rock Hotel and Casino and Downtown Summerlin in Las Vegas’ far western side of the city.
The entire environment is already a winner, and in the words of good friends of ours, “It’s a short distance from our home, so we can walk there.”
Hey, we all need a favorite watering hole, and this particular stop has a personality, too.