By ALAN SNEL
Do you believe in #VegasStrong?
It was a jumble of emotions tonight as history mingled with healing at T-Mobile Arena, where the Vegas Golden Knights honored the first responders, survivors and victims in an emotional pre-game ceremony before Las Vegas’ first-ever major-league professional team stormed out to a 4-1 lead in the first period in the franchise’s first-ever regular-season home game.
In the end, the Golden Knights defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 5-2, on a highly-charged, emotional evening before 18,191 fans in a building that sits 17,300 for hockey.
“It was a night everyone in this arena will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Joe Maloof, a minority Golden Knights owner. “It was beautiful. You have just so many moments to cherish in your life and this is one of them.”
Cops, firefighters, nurses, medics, doctors and dispatchers were individually matched with Golden Knights players in a powerful pre-game ceremony. Jonny Greco, the Golden Knights’ veteran entertainment chief who has worked for the NBA Cavaliers and MLB Marlins, hit the right notes with a program that was part-healing, part-inspirational after metro Las Vegas suffered so many losses and subsequent emotional traumas from a gunman’s savage attack on a country music festival on the Strip Oct.1.
The term, “catharsis,” made a lot of media reports Tuesday night.
Defenseman Deryk Engelland, the team’s elder statesman who has a home in metro Las Vegas after playing for the minor league Wranglers, gave a heartwarming speech to a crowd that needed a reason to cheer after a sorrowful nine days. He delivered with words from the heart and then a goal in the back of the net.
Keith Dotson, an MGM Resorts festival site team member, told LVSportsBiz.com that it was an honor to lead the packed arena of more than 17,000 emotional fans in singing the national anthem.
“I was glad to have my festival team behind me and when the crowd joined in behind me there was an amazing feeling of unity,” Dotson said in an exclusive interview.
Maloof, who with his brothers Gavin and George are Golden Knights part-owners and are former owners of the NBA Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets, said the 58 seconds of silence before the puck was dropped was an amazing healing moment. Each second represented a life taken by a 64-year-old Mesquite, NV man who murdered 58 country music fans from a 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino 500 yards away. He also injured nearly 500 more people with his arsenal of automatic rifles.
“It was a powerful moment when we bowed our heads for the 58 seconds,” Joe Maloof said. “It was serene, peaceful and powerful all at the same time.”
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who was part of the pre-game tribute, said it was a night of many intense emotions.
“You’re mixing a terrible tragedy with something we’ve waiting for two years to happen,” Sisolak told LVSportsBiz.com as he strolled the main concourse with a “Sisolak” on the back of his Golden Knights jersey.
“There’s a lot of different emotions right now,” Sisolak said. “It’s just what our county needed.”
Everybody was walking the gold carpet into T-Mobile Arena for the Vegas Golden Knights’ historic inaugural regular-season home-opener today. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Blue Man Group. Coach Gerard Gallant and assistants. Winger James Neal.
Welcome to Las Vegas history that is taking shape tonight.
“It’s gratifying to see the response in light of last week’s terrible events,” Bettman told LVSportsBiz.com.
Golden Knights Chief Marketing Officer Brian Killingsworth sized up the pre-game feel this way: “It’s overwhelming. The fan support has been unbelievable. All of us are extremely excited and it’s going to be really emotional for the Vegas Golden Knights and the city of Las Vegas.”
The Golden Knights broke out to a quick 4-0 lead, riding the wave of emotion set by the pre-game tribute. The Arizona Coyotes scored a goal in the first period for a 4-1 Golden Knights lead after the first stanza.
I met Golden Knights owner Bill Foley in the elevator after the first period and the owner quipped, “I hated to see them score.”
The Detroit Red Wings come to Las Vegas on Friday night. Expect another packed house of more than 17,000.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com