Top of the Morning, June 2, 2018

Top of the Morning, June 2, 2018

If you're an NHL team, you'd be wise to hire 2007 University of Illinois graduate NICK ZOMBOLAS.

His first hockey job — a nine-year run in the front office of the Chicago Blackhawks — allowed him to hoist the Stanley Cup three times (one of which is shown above).

Then he joined the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who somehow reached the finals in their very first year.

"I've been extremely fortunate to now be a part of two amazing organizations," said Zombolas, now the director of suite sales in Vegas. "The national following for such an amazing run in the team's inaugural season is unlike anything I've ever experienced."

He was a good-luck charm even in college, when, as a Daily Illini staffer and WPGU personality, Zombolas was often courtside for the Illini's run to the 2005 men's basketball championship game. I asked him if that was more exhilarating than what the Knights have pulled off.

"Very similar in a lot of ways," he said. "In '05, I was part of the Orange Krush and working for Illini Media. I had seats on the floor for our home games, and I had tickets to the Final Four in St. Louis. This run in Vegas is unique given the history the team is making as an expansion franchise. I have friends and family reaching out daily to talk about the Golden Knights."

Zombolas would love to see the UI make hockey a varsity sport.

"I know there is a lot more that goes into it between funding, NCAA policies and potential for a new stadium," he said, "but I believe the interest in hockey, both professional and collegiate, is at an all-time high. My friends and I always had the calendar marked for every Friday and Saturday night game at the Big Pond. I think the Illini students and alumni are ready to support an NCAA team."