Golden Knights’ pre-game festivities draw love-hate response from fans


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LAS VEGAS — There appears to be two types of people in the world: those who love the Vegas Golden Knights’ elaborate pre-game intro and those who hate it with a fiery passion usually reserved for things that, you know, really matter.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/05/2018 (1843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


LAS VEGAS — There appears to be two types of people in the world: those who love the Vegas Golden Knights’ elaborate pre-game intro and those who hate it with a fiery passion usually reserved for things that, you know, really matter.

Just take a look at social media, which was filled with immediate declarations of either delight or disgust following Wednesday’s playoff tilt against the Winnipeg Jets. In fact, we dare say there was just as much chatter about what went on before the game than what happened during it.

Not wanting to be standing on the sidelines of this most important story, the Free Press did a deep dive Friday into this obviously sensitive subject. We worked through the day and into the, er, Knight, to bring you as much information as we could.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Zachary Frongillo, who plays the Jets "villain," during dress rehearsal at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday.

Regardless of where you might stand on it, one thing is for certain: it’s got people talking.

● ● ●

Zachary Frongillo woke up Friday morning, got dressed and prepared to go to work. Only his job description is a little bit different than most.

In just a few hours’ time, Frongillo would be booed heartily by more than 18,000 people, vanquished by a sword-wielding Knight in shining armour and then hoisted to the rafters.

And he did all that while carrying a flag bearing the logo of the Winnipeg Jets, who represent the enemy on this night in Sin City.

“It never gets old,” said Frongillo. “Every time, I come down with a huge smile on my face. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many people get to fly into the rafters.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jonny Greco, VP of Events & Entertainment for the Vegas Knights poses for a portrait at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday, May 18, 2018. Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press 2018.

Frongillo is just one part of the extensive team production that has seemingly grown bigger as the hockey stakes get higher.

He plays the role of the Jets-loving “villain” who faces off with the true Golden Knight, who not only sends him airborne following a duel but then slices a jumbo jet in half in a subsequent battle. In that case, the plane is actually a video beamed on to the ice surface and not the real thing.

“If you talk to our creative team, there are no limits. You would have live tigers and people flying all over. We can’t be ridiculous. Well, we can be a little ridiculous, but not too ridiculous,” said the brains behind the operation, Jonny Greco, who is the team’s vice-president of events and entertainment.

“We knew that flying an evil villain from Winnipeg 100 feet in the air, at 11 feet per second, would probably elicit a response.”

And it has, ranging from “that’s amazing” to “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” if instant social media reactions are an indicator.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Props litter the entertainment production.

That’s just fine, Greco said. The whole idea is to get the arena buzzing and create something you can’t find anywhere else.

“Vegas has such a high level of entertainment, of production, of talent all over the place. We knew we couldn’t do what would work in a lot of other markets,” said Greco, who has previously worked for Vince McMahon’s WWE, along with the NBA and MLB.

Among the many other special affects included in the nearly 14-minute pre-game production is having Vegas players skate out of a 20-foot, 2,375-pound helmet Greco had created.

“We can’t score goals and we can’t make saves. Thankfully our guys have been doing a heck of a job with that so far. After that, it’s all about the story,” Greco said.

Frongillo was studying at UNLV, taking his degree in dance, when he auditioned for a role on the promotions team. He never anticipated the heights he would literally soar to as a result.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS An early storyboard at the entertainment production.

“It just kind of took off from there,” he said, pun apparently not intended. “(The first time), it was like a roller-coaster ride, like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going up, I’m going up, I’m still going up. Thank God I’m not afraid of heights.

“It’s unbelievable. Especially playoff time. The energy is up, everything is heightened. That includes the fans. That’s Vegas. They’ll get behind anything as long as it has that spectacle and that wow factor.”

Regardless of how this particular story ends — even if it’s with a Stanley Cup parade down the strip — nothing will compare to their Oct. 10 home opener, Greco said, which turned into a memorial tribute for the Vegas shooting massacre that happened only days earlier.

“Producing a beautiful, celebratory memorial kickoff, a ‘This is your team, Vegas,’ to honour what happened on Oct. 1, that will be the most important thing we do,” Greco said.

“The hockey’s incredible, that’s an incredible story. But the human interest in general, obviously going back to Oct. 1 and the shooting, it’s a bigger story to be told. That first game in this town when they needed to heal, we were able to provide this beautiful memorial that celebrated Vegas first, allowed 18,000 people to be together for a group hug that only sports allows.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Zachary Frongillo looks down on the arena from the rafters during dress rehearsal.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Friday, May 18, 2018 11:42 PM CDT: Adds video

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