By ALAN SNEL
Nathan Hill admits he’s no hockey expert. But it didn’t matter. The 41-year-old Hill came with his dad and cousin to the Vegas Golden Knights practice center — also known as City National Arena — and bought a T-shirt for 20 bucks for a UNLV assistant hockey coach he never met.
The coach was Nick Robone, wounded by a killer perched in a Mandalay Bay hotel corner suite on the 32nd floor and firing bullets from automatic rifles at 22,000 country music fans at a festival site 1,100 feet away across the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night.
The shooter murdered 58 and injured nearly 500 and UNLV hockey fans packed the Golden Knights training center to show their support and love for Robone at a Rebels hockey game against Utah.
“We never grew up with hockey and I don’t know anything about hockey but the Golden Knights are now our home team and I bought this T-shirt and raffles for the UNLV hockey coach,” said Hill, who is a city of Henderson archives and records manager.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to help this guy,” Hill said, as dad, Deric, and cousin, Chris, shared beers outside City National Arena during the pre-game festivities before the UNLV-Utah match.
Whatever it takes.
Hill uttered the slogan for Las Vegas this week, when the 2 million people who call Las Vegas home grieved, supported and leaned on each other while honoring the innocent music fans slaughtered by a 64-year-old Mesquite, NV man who assembled an arsenal of more than 40 weapons and an armory of ammo.
Tonight Las Vegas came together like few other nights. They opened a new downtown memorial garden in Las Vegas that was built in a mere four days. The Vegas Golden Knights, the state’s new NHL team, came through with a 2-1 win in Dallas in the franchise’s first-ever game to give Las Vegas a sweet gift after a brutally tough emotional week.
And hundreds packed an ice rink in Summerlin to raise money for an injured hockey coach and there was no other way to greet each other than to embrace and hug.
That’s what you do when a killer rocks a town. You hug and share love and build your world back together.
“It might be a city of two million, but it’s a small community where everybody knows everybody,” Nathan Hill said.
In this case, Hill knows the hockey coach’s brother — a firefighter in the city of Henderson.
It’s a city where everyday people used metal festival barriers as gurneys to transport injured country music fans and drove pick-up trucks as ambulances to deliver the wounded to local hospitals.
That’s the Las Vegas I know.
“What normal people did was unbelievable,” said Deric Hill, Nathan’s father.
Friday night was a remarkable time at a building that holds two rinks and lots of love. The pizzeria tavern was a convergence point for Golden Knights fans and UNLV hockey followers, as both groups intermingled with their team colors of gold for the Knights and red for the Rebels.
The pub’s general manager, Jason Anderson, could not be prouder to see the tavern between two rinks being used as a place for people to take a break from the heartache and pain of Sunday’s massacre.
“It felt like everybody needed a break and this was the perfect place,” Anderson said. “People are coming together under unfortunate conditions, but there is a lot of love in the building.”
One level below the McKenzie River pizzeria and pub hundreds of people signed a giant banner to wish Robone a quick recovery. Chelsea Mackey was overseeing the Sharpies people were using to sign the large poster sign.
“I love seeing the community coming together. It’s a good healing process,” said Mackey, whose husband used to play on the UNLV hockey team. “It’s a good step tonight. We’re not going to let one person’s hate and anger ruin the love we have for one another. It’s amazing to see so many names of people who don’t know him.”
The crowd inside McKenzie River pizzeria roared when the hometown Golden Knights beat the Dallas Stars, 2-1. And 90 minutes later, UNLV celebrated an 8-0 drubbing of Utah before a packed bleacher section in City National Arena.
More hugs and tributes will coming Saturday night, The UNLV football team hosts San Diego State and the university is planning a ceremony to remember Sunday’s victims and honor the first responders who braved a killer’s bullets to save so many.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com