MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Tonight in Las Vegas, Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is the main event barely. The elaborate pregame show for the Vegas Golden Knights is a close second billing. Now, most NHL teams keep their pregame shows pretty straightforward. The arena goes quiet. Maybe the lights turn off. The Jumbotron shows a highlight video. The players skate out onto the ice, and the game begins. But this is Las Vegas, and straightforward just doesn't cut it.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The West belongs to Vegas.
KELLY: There are flames shooting up out of a castle, neon robots, a sword fight on the ice, all culminating in the actual Golden Knights themselves skating out of a giant knight's helmet which of course is billowing with red smoke. And all of this is set to the "Ride Of The Valkyries."
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KELLY: The guy responsible for all this is Jonny Greco. He is vice president of entertainment production for the Golden Knights. Before that, he was a live events director for pro wrestling. Well, I caught up with him today as he was prepping for the show at T-Mobile Arena. And I asked him, given this is the Golden Knights' first-ever season - they were starting from scratch - what kind of debate was there about just how Vegas to take this thing?
JONNY GRECO: We threw everything on the wall. Like, how do we want to go? Do we want to go traditional, which is great and is no thrills and - or do we want to go Vegas - 'cause we also talked about going uber-Vegas, right? Is Elvis your host? Do you have showgirls...
GRECO: ...On skates? Like, and we kind of found a happy medium. You know, you got the slot machines and the dice roll that says make some noise. And, you know, we tried to balance all of that there, but we definitely talked about going - running the whole gauntlet of traditional to, like I said, Elvis as a PA announcer or host.
KELLY: So you landed on Vegas - whole lot of Vegas but not quite full uber-Vegas.
KELLY: To give people a little bit more of a sense of what is actually unfolding here, the Golden Knights - you know, in your pregame show, they come out. As the season has unfolded, you have had them shooting down a fighter jet. This was when y'all...
GRECO: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah.
KELLY: ...Played the Winnipeg Jets.
GRECO: Yeah, yeah.
KELLY: You have had them eating a piece of shark. This was when...
GRECO: (Laughter) Yeah, sure.
KELLY: ...Y'all were playing the San Jose Sharks.
KELLY: What's been your personal favorite?
GRECO: You know, I'm a little partial to cutting an airplane in half because the juxtaposition of a medieval knight - a warrior with a sword skating on ice in Las Vegas, slicing a F-18 in half just kind of sounds so crazy. You're like, that's not going to work. And it did (laughter).
KELLY: I should just mention you didn't actually bring a jet onto the ice. This was a projection, right?
GRECO: Very good point. Yeah, a lot of our elements - because you don't know who you're going to play. You know, sometimes you have a couple of days to prepare for this elaborate, you know, event. So we were either going to play the National Predators, which is a saber-toothed tiger, or you were going to play the Winnipeg Jets. So those opens couldn't have been any different as far as an experience goes.
KELLY: (Laughter) Right.
GRECO: So we were either talking about a live tiger on the ice or, you know, potentially slicing a jet in half. And ice projection allows you to suspend disbelief a little bit more versus practical elements.
KELLY: Before I move on from the tiger, did you ever at any point actually contemplate the live tiger?
GRECO: (Laughter) Oh, absolutely.
KELLY: Oh, really?
GRECO: This group - oh, yeah, yeah. This group here, we - especially when you're brainstorming, like, you got to kind of go real big and just plan. And we were like, OK, so is there a diaper on the tiger...
GRECO: ...So nothing happens on the ice? We threw everything out on the wall. And usually we go real big.
KELLY: Thank God you played the Jets (laughter).
GRECO: Yeah, yeah. Probably the whole world was happy that Winnipeg won in that case, I guess. The number one thing that we're doing is creating home-ice advantage. We want to create an atmosphere that gives our boys on the ice a little extra oomph, a little extra volume, a little extra cheering from the fans. They can pick up on that energy, and it helps them just go a little harder. Like, that's kind of incredible.
KELLY: Well, Jonny Greco, thank you so much.
GRECO: It is my pleasure. It is my honor, and I'm super excited about what's going to happen tonight. And I was super excited to talk to you, Mary Louise. Thank you.
KELLY: It has been our pleasure. That's Jonny Greco, vice president of entertainment production for the Vegas Golden Knights, talking to us from the arena where they will be facing off against the Washington Capitals - Game 2 tonight.
(SOUNDBITE OF RICHARD WAGNER'S "RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES")
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