This is a guest post by local supermom/Vegas Golden Knight superfan Jen Kelton. You can read her blog here and follow her on Instagram @jenkelton
The Golden Knights hockey team practices are open to spectators at City National Arena. After practice the players sign autographs for kids 14 and under.
City National Arena
1550 S. Pavilion Center Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89135
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
When you're planning on visiting City National Arena, you'll want a bit of a game plan ahead of time based on what you'd like to do when you're there. Since the VGK entered the Stanley Cup finals, the arena has become a huge attraction, so be ready for lots of crowds and lots of waiting! That doesn't take away from the amazing vibe and experience the arena and the entire Golden Knights brand has to offer. For us, even with two littles, the hype outweighs the cons and we love being in the atmosphere. Just beware, it may not be for everyone!
The practices or skate times are posted on the official NHL site, as well as the Golden Knights Twitter feed, usually the morning of. City National's site has a block off time, but never usually posts the correct one, so don't rely on their site for accuracy. Most visits that we have made, I call the arena the afternoon before, and they have always been able to give me the time, too. There are different types of practices. "Open/Optional skate" is when players have the option of attending practice, so be prepared that some of your favorite players may not be there that day. If it's labeled a "practice" or "morning skate", usually the whole team is out on the ice. Every time we have been, whether it was an optional or whole team practice, it typically ran for about 30-45 minutes.
When planning on when to arrive for practices, you should base it on what your plans for practice are. There are separate sections to watch from. The bleachers in stadium seating on the left of the rink, the autograph/meet and greet area on the right of the rink, or outside of the rink completely through the glass windows. Another option is the restaurant upstairs, where you can sit and watch out the large windows.
After parking in the main parking lot, you'll enter through the sliding glass doors. Rink A, where the Golden Knights skate, is to the right of entering.
The team signs autographs, after practice, for kid fans only. The Golden Knights implemented an awesome policy that players only sign for children ages 14 and under. The standing room only area is to the right of the rink, through a small, gray door. The door is now guarded by security, locked when closed, and is limited to a number of kids and families at a time. Once inside the standing room, there are two lines: kids against the glass, parents behind. This allows for a smoother flow once players start signing. Watching practice from this room is fun, because the puck often hits the glass, it's loud, plus you can see the players up extremely close and some will send their attention your way. Note that the glass is high, so smaller kids will have a hard time seeing if they aren't being held up. Nolan (4) can barely see over while standing on his tip-toes. We've watched from here a couple of times and loved it, but also note, the line for autographs begins outside of the door, and on our last visit, you needed to be waiting for 1.5 hours before the start of practice to get inside the standing room on the first "group" rotation. The glass can be high (if you're not sitting in the bleachers), so be prepared to carry/hold up little ones so they can see.
If you're heading to the arena to simply sit in the bleachers and watch the team, you'll need a wristband to enter the rink. Wristbands are given out on a first come, first serve basis at the guest services desk. The last practice we went to (the day after VGK's Game 1 win against the Capitals), we arrived at the arena at 9:15am to snag the last bit of the 400 wristbands given out for a noon practice. I believe they typically start giving wristbands out at 6AM. You can leave and return, with your wristband, but I would suggest getting there at least an hour before practice starts to grab a seat of your choosing.
The Arsenal is City National's official VGK gear store, where they sell all things VGK as well as hockey skates, masks, gear, etc. This place is also on a limited entry, so there is always a line to get in. Most days I would say the wait is at least 20-30 minutes, and the line is formed on the side of the City National's glass Arsenal entrance. If you see a long line outside the building, it's for the Arsenal entrance. From what I've noticed, it gets busier as the day goes on.
EXTRA FUN FACTS
Players don't usually wear their numbers at practice, but they do have them on their helmets to identify who is who!
The zamboni usually cleans the rink before/after practice. We’ve seen both happen, and it’s usually about 20 minutes before/after. Nolan absolutely loves this... so I’m sure other kids would too!
Bark-Andre Furry is a white terrier superfan who has gone viral on social media and can often be found at City National Arena during practices. Keep your eye out for him, he gives the best kisses!
The team parks on the far right side of the arena, and you can see their cars (like Marchy’s VGK Lamborghini). It is closed off to the public for obvious reasons, but you can still catch a glimpse of it from the parking lot and next to the Arsenal entrance.
There is typically a DJ playing music most days inside City National, which gets everyone pumped up! We’ve also seen VGK cheerleaders on site on game days and have heard Chance visits sometimes, too.
WHAT TO TAKE
If you're inside the rink, it is cold. We've always been fine with t shirts and shorts, but I've always brought jackets just in case.
I'm not positive on the food policy of City National, but we've always brought snacks and water and have never had a problem. I even had the kids eat a little picnic lunch while we waited in line our last visit and no one said anything. There is a vending machine on site right next to Rink A, as well as a few tables. There is also Mackenzie River Pizza Pub upstairs which I've heard is great and kid friendly, plus you can watch practice from there too! (We've never done this).
Definitely do not bring a stroller, especially as the crowds grow larger each day. A baby carrier is ideal for the tight spaces as you're pretty packed in, whether you're sitting in bleachers or standing to watch.
Cash or credit if you plan on doing a skate session yourself! Not sure of public skate times or cost, but it’s available.
An example of our last visit on 6/28: I came with the plan to grab our wristbands, and then head over to Downtown Summerlin for a bit to kill time before coming back over to City National a little before practice started. I also planned on sitting to watch in the bleachers (hence why we got wristbands), before moving in line for autographs. But, our plan didn't work that way.
We snagged some of the last wristbands at 9:15am, and when we returned at 11:00AM for the noon practice, the autograph/meet and greet line was getting pretty long. Instead of heading in to the bleacher section to grab a seat, we actually stood in line to save our spot. We ended up in the second "group", so we had to watch practice from outside the rink through the glass windows. This isn't ideal for little kids because the glass is tall, and Nolan can barely see over. There are benches to stand on, which he did and was fine to see, but note that there are only a few and many more people in line than there are spaces to watch. You don't quite get the full experience sitting outside of the arena, also. The noise, the crowd, the atmosphere, is very different being inside and watching than out.
One great thing about our latest experience, is when they did allow our group to enter, the team was still practicing, so we were able to watch from the standing room side, and they rotated the players who were signing autographs, so we were allowed to meet James Neal and Deryck Engelland, both of which are high profile players and some of our favorites. So the players rotate on a few occasions towards the end of practice, allowing a break for them and a fair chance at decent autographs for the kids.
WHAT WE LIKED
Our Family is pretty big on the VGK, so this is an awesome experience for us every time we go. Nolan has really gotten into the team and following the sport, so for him to watch his favorite players and then get to meet them, is super exciting for him. (And I’m not gonna lie... getting to see the players up close is really cool for us as parents and fans, too!) As Vegas’ first pro team, we really enjoy that they cater so much to local families and it makes us proud to raise our kids as VGK fans.
An up close look at the team that not all pro sports offer. Getting to watch practices (free, to add) is a privilege not all sports teams can accommodate, so we appreciate the opportunity to have this in town!
VGK’s kids only autograph policy, which allows for the kids to get their heroes autographs verses adults trying to make some money by pushing kids out of the way for autographs. LOVE this policy and that they uphold it.
We love the vibe and environment of City National. Despite how busy it is, we have always left feeling pumped and excited, and overall in a really great mood.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE
As the team gains popularity and the crowds grow, obviously lines get longer. Wait times are hard, but if you come prepared with snacks, toys, iPads even (don’t judge, Acelyn used hers quite a bit last visit!), it’s all worth it in the end!
One thing that has changed that I really am sad about is the rushing through the meet and greets. Obviously as more people visit, they have to maintain efficiency, but you’re really rushed along in the autograph line. This isn’t the fault of the players, just security moving people along too quickly. The players used to chat with the kids and we were able to take photos of them. But this last visit, they were barely able to say much as Nolan got pushed along to the next player just after receiving his puck back from the first. Definitely not enough time for a nice photo and seems a little more impersonal now. But, it’s to be expected with the crowds.
WILL WE GO AGAIN
Of course! We love the vibe so much at City National, we’ve gone days in a row (even living across town in Henderson)! If you come prepared knowing it’s going to be somewhat crazy, it’s completely worth the crowds and waits to see these guys in person!