By ALAN SNEL
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland just finished a morning practice at City National Arena and strolled to the center of the locker room.
There on the big TV screen mounted on a nearby wall was President Donald Trump lauding Las Vegas’ police officers for their brave response work after a 64-year-old Mesquite, NV man used an arsenal of automatic rifles to murder 58 country music fans at an outdoor festival site on the south Strip Sunday night. Another 489 were injured at the Route 91 Harvest country music event at MGM Resorts International’s outdoor entertainment site across from the Luxor hotel-casino.
It’s all around us, the media images of heroes using metal barriers as gurneys to carry away the wounded; pictures of those who lost their lives under an 11-minute barrage of bullets from a gunman perched in a 32nd floor room 1,100 feet away at Mandalay Bay hotel-casino; and the enduring pain of a Las Vegas community known for its swagger and fun times.
At 35, Engelland is the ripe old man of this expansion team of players who have come together as Las Vegas’ first major-league team in a mere four months. Their first regular-season home game is Tuesday and Engelland realizes it’s both a historic night for the NHL’s 31th franchise but also an opportunity to help the psyche of team’s host town heal from a devastating shooting massacre.
Emotions are certain to run deep Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights will host the Arizona Coyotes before more than 17,000 mostly local fans.
“Lots of people will be able to shut down for a couple of hours when the news is not on,” said Engelland, who has a home in metro Las Vegas. “People can turn their brains off and enjoy a positive atmosphere. . . Words can’t describe what happened. We have to do what we can do.”
The Golden Knights’ goal Tuesday night is to create a balance between the community’s need to heal and the historic nature of the franchise’s inaugural regular-season game.
Defenseman Brayden McNabb told LVSportsBiz.com said the team will do all it can to help a city that was shook up by Sunday’s mass shooting.
Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee lived through the traumatic 9/11 attack in Washington, D.C. when he served as GM for the Washington Capitals.
“It’s an emotional time for all of us,” McPhee said Wednesday. “We will have what we feel will be an appropriate response (at Tuesday’s first regular-season home game.) We will persevere.”
Centerman Cody Eakin said sports teams have a special quality of rallying a city.
“We’ll be playing with big hearts,” Eakin told LVSportsBiz.com. “Everyone wants to show strength and show unity. It will help people heal.”
Forward David Perron said the regular season’s first home-ice game will take on an added feel because of Sunday’s mass killing. “I don’t want to use the word, ‘Exciting,’ ” about the first home game. “We will honor the victims.”
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com