£500….to most of us, that is a comprehensive amount of money that we could really do some good with. A holiday in the sun? Yes, that will do nicely.
A ‘monkey’, to adopt some cockney rhyming slang, would be exactly what the bookmakers would have paid you had you had a little wager on the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup over in the NHL.
The franchise, which is in its inaugural season in America’s premier ice hockey competition, had been labelled the ‘misfits’ after recruiting injury-prone or previously underwhelming players to their roster.
But collectively they have come to the party, and now they are just three wins away from sporting immortality.
Sin City On Ice
It had all began innocently enough way back in 2014, when billionaire businessman Bill Foley met with the Maloof family, who had previously owned the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and who had a controlling stake in the Palms Casino Resort on the strip.
Between them they constructed a plan to bring professional ice hockey to Vegas, and they set about gauging interest by running a preliminary season ticket campaign. Within six months, Foley and the Maloof clan had more than 13,000 expressions of interest.
And so they took their ambitions plans to NHL top brass, who approved the consortium’s plans for an expansion team. They would be the league’s first accepted expansion since 2000, and the first professional sports franchise to be based in Vegas.
Next, they had to put a roster of players together. They took part in the NHL Expansion Draft, bringing in players from all of the other 30 teams, as well as free agents and other assorted ‘misfits’. Gerard Gallant was brought in as head coach, and he set about assembling a franchise that could compete at the top level.
And compete they did. The Vegas Golden Knights set an NHL record by being the first expansion team to win eight of their opening nine games, and the good times continued to roll as they claimed the Pacific Division title; the first expansion team in any of the four major sports in the US to win their divisional category in their first year.
After going on to enjoy success in the Western Conference play-offs, the Golden Knights are now in the Stanley Cup finals; ice hockey’s premier competition. And guess what: they just won the first of a best-of-seven rubber tie against the Washington Capitals.
So the 500/1 misfits are just three wins away from the most remarkable achievement that the NHL has ever seen, and any punters who were savvy enough and, dare we say, brave enough to back them look set for a very timely windfall indeed!
Other Sports Betting Long Shots
The Vegas Golden Knights have broken all kinds of records this season, and their pre-season odds of 500/1 now look rather foolish.
Of course, as far as the bookmakers are concerned the achievement of the Golden Knights pales into insignificance compared to that of Leicester City, who won the 2015/16 Premier League despite starting off at odds of 5000/1. Even more remarkably, a small handful of punters had actually backed them to do just that, with the bookies having to pay out more than £10 million!
Even that wager is small fry compared to the biggest betting wins in UK history, some of which have been documented by William Hill. They recalled one of their customers landing a 2,000,000/1 behemoth; a 50p flutter on the eight horse accumulator made Fred Cragg a millionaire.
And George Rhodes showed why even the tiniest of stakes can yield dividends back in 1984 when his acca landed at cumulative odds of just over 1,600,000/1. Rhodes only placed 5p on the bet, but could at least dry his eyes with more than £80,000 in used bank notes.
Those were all huge winners at accumulative odds, of course, but there have been other examples of massive outsiders giving their backers a single payday they will never forget. Who can forget the USA men’s hockey team, who took the gold medal in 1980 despite being considered 1000/1 no hopers.
On a slightly more low key note, the Auburn Tigers triumphed in American football’s collegiate series, the Bowl Championship, despite odds of 1000/1 essentially giving them no chance.
And huge winners aren’t the exclusive rights of team sports either. In 2017 young Korean Si Woo Kim won golf’s ‘fifth major’, the Players Championship, at TPC Sawgrass – not bad for a mere 500/1 shot!