I’m not exactly sure where to begin. This post may be a bit of an incoherent ramble. My hope is you stick with me throughout.
Let me take you back a year ago, as it’s going to seem like a bit of deja vu. The final preseason game between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks just wrapped up here at T-Mobile Arena. Vegas lost 5-3 and was five days away from playing its first meaningful NHL game.
That game, much like the one tonight, started at 5:07 p.m. The game ended, I wrote a story on how Shea Theodore might make the final roster and whatnot. I left T-Mobile at almost 9 p.m. that night, went home and thought nothing of it.
Then it happened.
I woke up at nearly 3 a.m. and felt numb, as I’m sure all of you who live in Las Vegas were at the time. I spent hours speechless. My fiancee still had to go to work at 5 a.m., but fortunately was allowed to check in and then leave. Even in that time, I was worried about what would happen. She took I-15 northbound and drove past Mandalay Bay just hours after everything happened. I had never heard of a more somber description than everything she told me.
Not sure of what to feel, all I could do is write. So, I wrote this that morning.
It was a message that needed to be written, not only to somewhat provide a sense of hope to the city I’ve called home my entire life, but to myself. There was an inkling of me that thought everything was going to be alright. That’s when I came up with the final sentence: “We will be back. And we’ll be better than ever.”
Fast forward to Sunday.
It’s 9 p.m. as I started writing this. The Golden Knights just wrapped up their final preseason game, a 5-2 victory over the Sharks. I’m sitting in the exact same spot in the media workroom as I sat the night of last Oct. 1. I’ve just finished writing a story on how Tomas Nosek is coming for a first-line spot.
It’s a story about a team that reached 109 points in their inaugural season. They won the Pacific Division. They made the god damn Stanley Cup Final as an expansion team. Yeah, this team that had to play its first hockey game five days after the worst possible thing to ever happen in this city did all of that. A city broken by sadness and heartache went on an unfathomable journey that gave this city hope. No, what happened one year ago was not a reason why the Golden Knights did what they did. They’re a damn good hockey team, but more importantly, it’s a hockey team filled with some damn good people.
Sports can never cure all. They can do a lot, though. The Golden Knights gave this city hope. It wasn’t the end-all, be-all cure that people hoped. Not even the Stanley Cup could have possibly done that. I spent most of last year observing. I wanted to people watch and see what their reactions were on that day. The few weeks after Oct. 1, I heard a lot of sadness. But I heard people talk about a hockey team that won eight of its first 10 games and talked as if the city played for them.
The Golden Knights did play for this city. Every word said by every player about winning for this community and playing for this city was no lie. The players in the locker room, and those who are no longer playing for Vegas, love this city. They’ve embraced this community as its own. Even one year later, it goes beyond hockey.
I can proudly say, one year later, that Vegas is stronger than ever. It’s on full display everywhere you go. Vegas Strong is not just a slogan by the Golden Knights. It’s a grit-and-grind definition and pure description of this city. The Golden Knights had a huge part in it. But I know, just as much, there are people who have attempted to make this city whole again by just using their words; their actions; their pureness of love.
The Golden Knights are about to start their second year as an NHL franchise, and all of us are excited to extend that olive branch of excitement to you. On this day, though, we want to reflect on those we’ve lost, and those who are still affected. To those who are affected by what happened, we all love you. You’re still in our thoughts. You always will be in our thoughts. And if there’s anything we, not just as a KOI community but a community in whole, can do to extend our help and support, don’t hesitate to reach us. It’s an ongoing healing process and we’re in this together.
I’m so damn proud of this city. I’m so happy this city has embraced the Golden Knights, and vice-versa. I’m so happy of what has become of the place we call home. It may seem like deja vu, but it’s not. Hockey is back, Las Vegas is back, and this city is back. It’s a trifecta of goodness that we all needed.
I love you all.