LAS VEGAS — It was a bittersweet start.
Before the Vegas Golden Knights took the ice in their inaugural home game on Tuesday night, the team introduced first responders in an emotional 15-minute ceremony. Doctors, nurses, policemen and firefighters were called out by name, accompanied by Golden Knights players.
There also was a 58-second moment of silence to honor the 58 people killed in the worst mass shooting in American history, which occurred Oct. 1 at a country music concert in Las Vegas — less than a mile from T-Mobile Arena, home of the Golden Knights. The names of the victims were emblazoned on the ice.
“We will do everything we can to help you and our city heal,” Golden Knights player Deryk Engelland told the crowd.
Engelland has made Las Vegas his offseason home since playing for the city’s ECHL team; he also met his wife here.
After long viewing Las Vegas as a vacation hotspot, players on other teams were pumped about the prospect of taking business trips to Sin City. But the mass shooting on Oct. 1 changed their perspective — especially for Las Vegas native Jason Zucker.
In lieu of ads for their first-ever home game at T-Mobile Arena, the Knights are honoring the victims of last week’s tragedy.
Reminders of the tragedy were everywhere.
The boards at T-Mobile Arena were wiped of advertising; instead, the words #VegasStrong were printed around the rink. Many billboards leading into the resort city have been painted black with similar messages. The Knights and their opponents, the Arizona Coyotes, both wore decals honoring victims.
“Some things are bigger than rivalries,” the Coyotes official Twitter account posted. The account also changed its avatar to an image melding the teams’ logos for Tuesday night’s game.
Knights staffers had conducted a run-through of the pregame ceremonies on Monday, and according to Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, even that got emotional.
“I could feel myself getting teary-eyed,” the normally stoic Gallant said Tuesday morning. “And [the game] will be a lot tougher than that.”
The Knights were looking to become the first expansion team to start 3-0 when they took on the Coyotes.