It was an emotional tribute to the city preceded a dominant performance by the Golden Knights.
Pick your moment. There was no shortage in an evening drenched with history, drama, grief, tribute and finally hockey.
Bill Foley said he wanted the night to be about Las Vegas. He said his Golden Knights organization had a responsibility to meet. The team was Vegas born and in his mind it needed to honor Las Vegas after the tragedy of October 1st which saw 58 people die and close to 500 others wounded at the hands of a lone gunman.
Foley isn’t into excuses. He’s a results guy and that filters down throughout his hockey franchise. There was no getting this wrong or coming up short. It needed to be done right and it was. The ceremony which unfurled was poignant, moving and brilliantly executed. It was both a eulogy and a celebration.
“I thought our guys did a terrific job. I felt like bringing the first responders out, those heroes, and having them escorted by a player, having them introduced to each other; I just thought it was terrific,” said Foley.
“Having the young boy drop the puck, then the National Anthem being sung by the entire audience…We were trying to thank the town and bring the town together and show Vegas that we’re really part of the community.
There was so much to see, to relate to and grasp. It was rich and moving and on point.
From the opening words to Warriors, an homage to Las Vegas performed by city sons Imagine Dragons to Derek Engelland skating to center ice and taking a microphone to tell his hometown neighbors he believed in them.
The theme was Vegas Strong. It was pasted to the dasher boards replacing the usual blitz of advertising. It was on the name-bars of the Golden Knights warmup jerseys. It was spoken again and again by players from around the NHL and finally in unison from the Golden Knights – Vegas’s hockey team.
Tradition has a team introduced prior to its first home game of the season. The Golden Knights had their names called out but were accompanied by first responders from Oct. 1. The everyday heroes that do their work in the shadows not for fame or glory but for the reward of humanity.
As a 58-second moment of silence was observed, the names of the fallen 58 were lit upon the ice.
A ceremonial faceoff featured survivors from Oct. 1 and fundraiser Steve Sisolak, who launched a GoFundMe page was has raised over $10 million.
The Star Spangled Banner was led by Keith Dotson and his Route 91 colleagues who were also joined by the 17,000 plus in attendance.
And then they played hockey. Golden Knights hockey.
Tomas Nosek’s goal gave the Vegas squad a 1-0 lead and sent a rumble down The Strip which rippled the felt of every craps table in town. Then Engelland whacked a slapshot into the Arizona Coyotes net. 2-0.
And then James Neal made it 3-0. And then Neal made it 4-0.
At the time of this writing the Golden Knights led 5-1 with only a miracle Coyotes comeback capable of taking some of the shine off this night.
But not really. The Golden Knights had won this game before the opening faceoff. They won by giving Vegas the kind of tribute it deserved.
A shooting with the death and injury toll can’t be healed by one hockey game. But healing must begin somewhere. Vegas showed in the aftermath of October 1st that it wouldn’t be defeated. It would grieve. But it would persevere.
There must be vehicles of hope and distraction to begin this process. Bill Foley understands this. So do the Golden Knights.
So bravo, Vegas, for being who you are. And bravo, Golden Knights for being Vegas born, Vegas bred, and #VegasStrong.
Nice work by former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes for the Knights!
Credits: www.nhl.com & Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com