Nine days after a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more, the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights played the first home game in club history, defeating Arizona 5-2 Tuesday to become the first NHL expansion team to begin with a 3-0 mark.
Given the tragedy that gripped the city and drew the world’s attention to the US gambling hub, the Golden Knights decided their debut needed to be something special and the tribute did not disappoint.
The names of all 58 victims who died when struck by a hail of bullets while attending a country music concert were projected onto the ice at T-Mobile Arena. There was a 58-second moment of silence in respect to those who were killed.
Before each player was introduced in the darkened arena, the spotlight literally fell upon first responders as police and medical personnel walked onto the ice, each joined by a player, coach or executive from the Golden Knights.
Several survivors of the massacre gathered at center ice for the ceremonial dropping of the first puck, after which Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland, a Las Vegas resident for the past 15 years, made an emotional speech to the crowd, closing with “We are Vegas Strong.”
To emphasize the message and the desire to help the city heal, the usual advertising along the sideboards was replaced with the words “Vegas Strong” over and over again.
Engelland did his part on the ice as well, scoring a goal to give Vegas a 2-0 lead.
“We always say we want to help the city start to heal,” Engelland said. “Hopefully we’re doing that. I’ll take (goals) when I can get them. I couldn’t be more happy than to get one tonight.”
James Neal scored twice for the Golden Knights and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves foe his third triumph of the campaign, but the healing was more important than the score on this night.
“It’s a process,” Golden Knights owner Bill Foley said. “It’s a tough deal that happened nine days ago, but we’re trying to do our part. Our players are trying to do their part.”
The Knights scored four goals in the first 11 minutes after the emotional ceremony.
“I thought the start might be tough for us,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought it might be the exact opposite. But our guys knew what was at stake.”
Video “Vegas Strong” messages were played from a number of celebrities, including Keith Urban, Adam Levine and Imagine Dragons.