Wednesday, June 27, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Midway through the opening practice of development camp, Golden Knights rookies converged at the corner of the rink around assistant coach Ryan Craig.
The youngsters knelt on the ice, their knees sinking into the shaved ice from drills upon drills, their attention on a whiteboard hanging from the plexiglass boards. Coach Craig tapped the board with his finger and instructed the players on their next drill, and the entire crowd at City National Arena followed along.
The Golden Knights attached a microphone to Craig, which fed whatever he said through the rink's sound system. It’s yet another creative offering to the rabid fan base, which again packed the building for practice.
“I think we’re always looking for innovative ways to connect with our fans and bring them closer to the team and closer to the players,” said vice president of communications and content Eric Tosi. “We thought with the support that we’ve received from our fans, it would be a cool idea to bring them closer to what’s going on on the ice.”
As players hustled up and down the rink through rigorous conditioning drills, Craig’s voice egging them on echoed throughout the rink.
“That was a first,” Craig said, laughing. “I thought it was fun. The guys were great and it was a great, innovative idea from our team. I don’t know how it went over, but I thought it was fun and it was something new.”
Whether he was giving detailed instruction to players between drills or simply yelling for them to move their feet, it gave Golden Knights fans an entirely different perspective.
“I think anybody would find it fascinating,” Tosi said. “You’re hearing from an NHL coach talking to players, instructing players in real time. We just wanted to make sure that the coaches were comfortable with it and this was a good time to implement it.”
Craig was the guinea pig for the first day, and things went smoothly. Assistant coach Mike Kelly will take the mic at today’s practices and Ryan McGill will be voice on Thursday.
“The guys were receptive to it, and it gives the (fans) a glimpse inside,” Craig said. “It is live right? I didn’t get hit with a puck or anything, so I was good. I had to stand out of the way and make sure nothing too bad came out of my mouth.”
The Golden Knights will continue development camp with four practices today starting at 9:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.