Thursday, May 17, 2018 | 12:30 a.m.
It’s unlikely the legion that roared for the Golden Knights Wednesday evening had imagined months ago that Las Vegas would be a competitive hockey town so soon, and that the Toshiba Plaza in the middle of the Strip playground would become a shrine for a historic run.
But there they were, in their Fleury, Karlsson, Neal and Vegas Strong gear, erupting as the team scored its first, second, third and — as a celebratory measure as time expired — a fourth goal, which put their hockey team six wins from lifting the Stanley Cup.
“It’s awesome,” Roger McGuffey said. “It’s loud, we’re all supporting, cheering our Knights on, you know!” he added, swinging a large flag with the team’s logo.
Although close to the action, these fans weren’t fortunate to be inside T-Mobile Arena, but they might as well have been, as the atmosphere at the plaza, where the game was broadcast on hefty screens, was just as electric.
“Go Knights go!” they shouted as if the encouragement could reach the players’ ears. “Fleury! Fleury! Fleury!” was the thundering chant when the goalkeeper stopped or deflected the puck.
Before the game, the fans streamed in from different parts of the Strip in their white or black team sweaters. Multiple viewing parties popped up near the arena.
During the game, adults and children danced between periods and during commercial breaks. They hugged and high-fived strangers. And when three U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jets flew over the arena during the national anthem, they burst into delighted applause.
A man wore a golden-colored, shiny suit. A couple of others donned medieval-style battle helmets.
Audio from skates slicing through the ice, players slamming into the glass, and wooden sticks striking the puck was crystal clear.
Prior to the season, McGuffey said, he was not much of a hockey fan, but now he’s all in. “I think (the team) means a lot to this city after what had happened,” he said, referencing the Oct. 1 shooting. “It brought a lot of people back (into) good spirits, giving them something to look forward to.”
Although not as numerous, Winnipeg Jets fans celebrated similarly. Take Hilda Anderson Pyrz, who along with family and group of girlfriends, hoisted Canadian flags.
They booked their flight a month ago, not knowing their team would follow them to Las Vegas. "I think the Winnipeg Jets are awesome regardless if they win or lose," she said, noting that her team was down.
The group smiled, cheered the Knights' misfortunes and jumped up and down when the Jets scored. And they also shared conversation with Knights fans, taking photos with them.
"Canadians love hockey and we love our Winnipeg Jets," said Anderson Pyrz, who wore the iconic "Winnipeg is Good" sweatshirt.
Regardless of the different allegiances, she said, "Everybody has been pretty friendly."
After the 4-2 victory, the crowd made its way back to the Strip parking lots. A handful of people high-fived a young boy in a Fleury T-shirt as he was carried off on the shoulders of a man.