Las Vegas Sun

June 23, 2018

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For Golden Knights, day with Cirque du Soleil is escape from mundane

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Vegas Golden Knights

Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland hangs from a hoop while getting instructions from Cirque du Soleil coaches at Ka Theatre inside MGM Grand on Feb. 14, 2018.

Golden Knights players spent their off day swinging high above the stage at the MGM Grand's Ka Theatre Wednesday morning.

In place of a traditional recovery day, the team took part in Cirque du Soleil acts with the help of coaches from the show.

“It’s a team-bonding experience,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You see other professionals in their line of work and step into their world for awhile. It’s easy for them, but especially with the juggling, our guys were struggling with it. But it’s exciting to see them do their thing.”

The players attempted to juggle and soared through the air with the help of red elastic curtains, never missing an opportunity to give each other grief.

“It’s definitely something you don’t expect to do,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the Golden Knights with 54 points. “It is pretty hard, I have to say. It’s surprising to see how much of an athlete they are.”

Some players weren’t as comfortable 15 feet off the ground, while others embraced it.

“The first time it lifts you off you feel a little bit vulnerable, but then you’re good,” Schmidt said. “When they lifted me across the stage I loved it. It’s such an adrenaline rush. It’s pretty incredible. I was honestly trying to get them to go a little higher.”

And while the workout likely won’t reap many benefits on the hockey rink, it gives the players a break to reset their minds during the long 82-game season, now at the two-thirds mark.

“It’s fun to change things,” Marchessault said. “When you’re doing the same things every day it can get long, so it’s fun to mix it up and this is something I’m pretty sure no one on our team has done before.”

A lot of NHL teams hold team-building exercises off the ice but not many players get an off day like the Golden Knights had on Wednesday.

“This is what makes our city so special, to be able to go out and do these types of things and do them with your team,” Schmidt said. “Everything has been first-class since we got (to Las Vegas), and now we’re up here on the Cirque du Soleil stage. It’s something I’ll never forget.”