Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2018

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The Vegas Golden Knights are champions where it counts most—in the community

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Vegas Golden Knights players are joined by first responders during opening ceremonies at their season home opener game at the T-Mobile Arena Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

Fans started to slowly file out of T-Mobile Arena after the Golden Knights’ season-ending game when the public-address announcer delivered one last message: “To our 58 stars in the sky,” the farewell started.

It was yet another reminder of how the team went above and beyond in helping the community heal in the aftermath of the October 1 shooting massacre on the Strip. Those 58 stars represent the fatalities in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

Long before the Golden Knights firmly grabbed our attention in the chase for the Stanley Cup, they won our hearts with compassion in visiting shooting victims and with a powerful pregame tribute before the home opener. On the last home game of the regular season, they retired jersey No. 58.

“This first season has been special for the city for many reasons. For October 1, it is crazy how the city came together, and I think I am just lucky that I was a part of it,” forward David Perron said. “It was just one little piece in the city that made it come together. It feels good. It is still tough to talk about right now, but as we go on with days and weeks, it is going to feel better and better.”

The Golden Knights might have fallen a few games shy of the NHL championship, but in the community, they were champs all the way. And the acts of kindness weren’t limited to how they handled the shooting’s aftermath. Whether it was giving game tickets to service members, launching youth programs in at-risks schools where children received hockey sticks, or countless financial donations to charitable causes, the Knights quickly made their arrival felt around the Valley.

Players such as Deryk Engelland, a Las Vegas resident who delivered a powerful first-game message during the tribute, and goalie Marc-André Fleury have become the faces of the franchise. Tickets became the toughest in the league to get; practices required fire marshals to limit the overwhelming number of attendees.

By the time the playoffs arrived, watch parties had sprung up across town. Apparel was sold seemingly everywhere, including in convenience store parking lots, and there always seemed to be a long line of patrons.

“Our fans are outstanding. That’s been from Day One,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’ve been unbelievable for us. They supported our hockey team.”

That support surely won’t fade. And neither will the club’s good works in the community. When the Golden Knights last week announced plans for a player development camp at the end of the month, the first item listed on the schedule was a “special community service event.”

“To see how many people you see on the street and they would say they like the team, they’re proud of the hockey team in Vegas. It’s an honor,” Fleury said.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly