Monday, June 25, 2018 | 2:58 p.m.
Golden Knights rookies are professional hockey players in training.
On Tuesday, they will hit the ice at City National Arena for development camp, where they’ll hone their hockey skills. But before they can learn to be Golden Knights on the ice, they must learn to be Knights off the ice.
For the second straight year, the team sent its prospects to Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on the eve of development camp so the players could help serve meals to the needy.
“Community is very important to us as an organization,” Golden Knights Director of Player Development Wil Nichol said. “This is the first thing we did last year and that’s by design, because we wanted to create a culture last year from the start how important the community is to us.”
Men and women lined up around the Catholic Charities building, some waiting more than an hour to get inside and eat what may be their only meal of the day.
“I can’t tell you how important it is for the clients,” said Steve Schmitt, the charity’s senior vice president and chief operating officer.
“Their lives, especially in the summer, can be incredibly difficult, so for them to feel like the Golden Knights are serving them a plate of food is something they’ll remember and possibly even give them a little bit of hope,” Schmitt said.
Some of the people fist bumped the players, while some asked for autographs and others simply enjoyed the company.
“To have a professional hockey organization here gives them that little spark of hope that they can carry on in their lives,” Schmitt said. “Most of these people an hour from now are going to be out standing in the 120-degree heat and wondering where their next meal is.”
The players enjoyed the event too.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said 2017 first-round pick Nick Suzuki. “I enjoyed it last (year) and I’m enjoying it this time. It’s good to come out here and help.”
Suzuki was one of last year’s draft picks who was helping out at the charity for a second year. He was joined by fellow first-round picks Cody Glass and Erik Brannstrom, and this year’s prospects, who were selected just two days ago in Dallas.
“I’m trying to lead by example,” Suzuki said. “I was trying to teach Brannstrom and (Lucas) Elvenes how to do it. They’re brand new, so I was just trying to help.”
When the players helped out last year, the Golden Knights were little known, having never played a game and only acquired players a week prior. What a differene a year — and a Stanley Cup Final appearance — makes.
This year, people were chanting “Go Knights go!” as the players entered the building.
“It was really cool,” Suzuki said. “Just to see the type of support that this team gets, and now everyone in Vegas knows who they are. It’s come a long way, and I know it’s just going to build more.”