On Oct.12, The Golden Knights had taken on the Arizona Coyotes for their first-ever home game, but if you ask anyone who was there, they would tell you that it was more than just a typical hockey game.
It was more than just an expansion team playing its first official game in front of the home crowd. It was not just about providing entertainment for the local crowd or taunting the opposing team’s fans.
Just 11 days after the worst mass shooting in American history, the City of Las Vegas hosted its first ever major professional sporting event.
The Golden Knights knew this game would be attended by fans who were on edge. They anticipated the intensity of this game.
It has been more than a month since the Vegas shooting that claimed the lives of 58 innocent victims.
This was supposed to be a great year for Las Vegas. The City had been approved for its first ever major: the Golden Knights. Vegas is also building a football stadium for the Raiders.
Las Vegas was booming. The spotlight was focused on the home debut of Golden Knights, but the city seemed to pause after the mass shooting.
Into the void stepped in the Golden Knights. The team has helped with the healing process, providing hope and inspiration for the city and the world.
The hockey world didn’t expect much success for the Golden Knights in their first season, but the team started off hot, winning their first two road games.
Back in Las Vegas, they were getting ready to play their first ever home game. Their on-and off-the-ice contributions had provided a positive reaction around the league.
The Knights cancelled a promotional event so their players could visit the police, firefighters, medical personnel and the wounded survivors of the mass shooting. They donated a million dollars to the Las Vegas Metropolitan police foundation and the victims and jointly donated 300 hundred thousand dollars to the victims. They also set a link on their website for anyone else who wished to contribute.
They removed all their advertisements from the boards which surround the ice and replaced them with the slogan “Vegas Strong.” They discarded their original pre-game video to add a new one to acknowledge and thank Law Enforcement, fire, paramedics and medical staff for their response during and after the shooting.
Each of the Golden Knights players took the ice they were escorted by police, firefighters, paramedics and medical personnel to be recognized.
The names of all 58 victims who lost their lives were projected onto the ice along, with the words “Vegas Strong.” They called 58 seconds of silence in remembrance for each of the victims.
Their score board displayed each number for each of the victims who lost their life. The arena was at a dead silence as each number was displayed on the arena’s jumbo screen. After the counter hit 58 and the moment of silence was over, a fan screamed, ” Vegas Strong” and everyone cheered.
“I think it’s crystal clear that the Vegas Golden Knights not only have embraced the community, but have been embraced by the community,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in an article by NHL writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika.
One of the survivors of the Vegas shooting dropped the ceremonial puck.
But Before the puck drop, Golden Knights’ defenseman Deryk Engelland addressed the crowd of about 18,000.
His speech was short, simple and powerful. It gave most people chills.
“Like all of you, I’m proud to call Las Vegas home. I met my wife here. Our kids were born here. I know how special this city is,” Engelland said. “To all the brave first responders that have worked tirelessly and courageously through this whole tragedy, we thank you. To the families and friends of the victims, we’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas Strong.”
Ken Boehlke, founder of The Sin Bin, a website dedicated to hockey, described his thoughts regarding the night.
“Nothing can heal what happened. However, to see cops, first responders and survivors have a smile on their face just a day or two after that horrific night was almost unbelievable,” Boehlke said
In the first period of the game, Engelland, who is more known for his defensive playing style and not offensive contributions, scored a goal. The Golden Knights would go on to win the game 5-2 making them the first expansion team in NHL history to start the season with a 3-0 record.
Boehlke said the atmosphere was something unlike he has ever witnessed before, It was emotional, heavy, sad but also loud, passionate and electric.
After losing to the Golden Knights, the Arizona Coyotes’ players stood on the ice to salute the Vegas crowd and to show their respect.
The Golden Knights have provided solace and inspiration for their fans and the City of Las Vegas.
The events of this emotional night were like a Hollywood script with the Golden Knights as protagonist. The shooter as the antagonist and the broken fans. The Golden Knights helped the city heal and proved their resilience. The team helped the community overcome adversity and move forward.
It was the perfect ending to a very emotional night and we will always remember the victims that lost their lives and the Golden Knights for their response to a city that needed an inspiration.