**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
I was driving home following Sunday’s preseason finale at T-Mobile Arena and I passed by the United Blood Services facility on West Charleston. I actually pass by it often on my way to my job as editor at Gaming Today. And every time I do, my thoughts circle back to October 3, 2017.
Why October 3rd?
It was less than 24 hours following the massacre across from Mandalay Bay where the Route 91 Harvest Festival become a killing zone. A deranged gunman let loose a barrage of death and destruction, cutting short the lives of 58 people he didn’t even know while wounding hundreds of others and changing the collective psyche Las Vegas forever.
I was one of the last to leave T-Mobile Arena following the Golden Knights’ final preseason game against San Jose. I left about 10 minutes before the shooting started. I’ve talked in the past about that evening, how my phone kept pinging with texts, ringing with calls, family and friends asking if everything was O.K. Watching the grim news unfold on the 11 p.m. news and knowing even though I covered hockey, my life was about to change.
Which brings me to October 3rd.
The Knights practiced at City National Arena that morning. As you can imagine, it was a somber atmosphere. As the players were on the ice, team management and staff were hard at work, trying to figure out how best the Knights could assist in the community while at the same time, having to quickly pivot from what they planned to do for the pregame ceremony for the October 10th home opener vs. Arizona. Remember, the Knights were scheduled to open on the road that Friday at Dallas, then travel to Arizona the next night.
As the players practiced, people were lining up at blood facilities all over Southern Nevada. At the United Blood Services on Charleston, the line snaked out the door and around the building as people waited hours to donate.
Most of the Knights players visited the blood bank. Many were at Metropolitan Police headquarters to meet with the police and other first responders who had performed so bravely hours before, preventing the death toll from climbing even higher. Still others went to the Family Assistance Center at the Las Vegas Convention Center to try and console families who were dealing with the loss or the injury of loved ones.
Remember, save for Deryk Engelland, none of the players and coaches had lived in Las Vegas. This was still a new place. Many were still trying to figure out how to get around the city. Sure, they knew how to get to practice and to the arena for games. They knew how to get to the Strip. But I’ll bet none of them knew where United Blood Services was. Or where Metro headquarters was. Or even the Convention Center. So for the players, this was surreal.
Remember, 10 Golden Knights got caught up in this the night before as they were at the Cosmopolitan having a team postgame dinner when the hotel was locked down along with everything else on the Strip. They had no idea what was really going on.
But by the morning of October 3rd, everyone knew. And to a man, they quickly did what they could to comfort the community which had already embraced them as its team, which had already invested, both financially and emotionally in them. Giving back? That was the easy thing to do. But to do it tastefully and respectfully? That was the tricky part.
The team was noticeably visible. And it cemented the bond between the city and its new hockey team. Las Vegas was going to need time to heal, time to get through this, and the Golden Knights made sure they would be with the city every step of the way.
And that is why this city loves the Golden Knights.
Yes, the Stanley Cup run and the overall record success for an expansion team was wonderful. But more important was the love of community for the team and the return of that love by the team that will always endure.
We will always remember the emotional pregame ceremonies of the first home opener on October 10th. The names of the 58 victims etched on and projected onto the ice. The escorting of the first responders by the players, coaches and management. And of course, Engelland’s short but stirring speech that proclaimed “We are Vegas Strong.”
Today marks the second anniversary of the horrific events of October 1, 2017. It’s a tough day for those of us who were around and were impacted by it. If you’re new to Las Vegas and to SinBin, you’ll quickly understand the gravity of the day and how heightened security in hotels and casinos, in schools and places of worship, and yes, even at hockey games, is the new normal.
The Knights open their third NHL season Wednesday night against the Sharks at T-Mobile Arena. It’s going to be crazy inside, especially after Sunday’s final preseason game that saw 114 minutes in penalties assessed with the Sharks’ Evander Kane, Public Enemy No. 1 with Knights fans, picking up a good chunk of those. Normally, practice Tuesday at City National Arena would be full as the team makes its final preparations for the season opener.
It will still be full, except the spectators will be by invitation only. The team decided to bring the survivors, their families and the first responders to the rink, let them watch practice, then interact with the players and coaches over lunch.
It figures to be a special moment and a poignant one. On Wednesday, there will be a time for reflection and remembrance in the pregame ceremonies in acknowledging the second anniversary of the October 1 tragedy. It will be tastefully done, I have no doubt about that. It will be emotional and loving.
And then the switch will be flipped. They’ll play hockey. The fans will be engaged and given the opponent and that history, it’s going to be a wild night. Hell, maybe even Engelland will score again. That is if he doesn’t drop the gloves with Kane first, assuming he even plays after his incident with a linesman in the third period Sunday.
Since the Las Vegas shooting, there have been 50 mass shootings in the United States that have seen four or more individuals killed. We still have the dubious distinction of being at the top of that list. It’s an unfortunate part of our legacy as a community.
Another part of that legacy is the love connection between the city and its hockey team. And that’s something we can all take pride in.
It’s good to be back for another season. My thanks to Ken and Jason for asking me to return, and also to attorney Jim Jimmerson for his continued support of this column.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**