Golden Knights' mission to heal through hockey

The Vegas Golden Knights may have failed to become 2018 Stanley Cup champions but they achieved something that will live forever in the hearts of Las Vegas.

Posted: Oct 2, 2018 9:19 AM
Updated: Oct 2, 2018 9:34 AM

It was just nine days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.

Deryk Engelland, captain of the Vegas Golden Knights, was standing in a spotlight at T-Mobile Arena, addressing the sellout crowd. It was his team's first regular-season home game in its new city. The atmosphere was different than anyone could have or would have ever imagined.

"It's first game in the franchise in Vegas, right? So it's supposed to be a happy time, but no," Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recalled.

"It was on everybody's mind. It was tough."

Engelland finished his remarks that night with this pledge: "To the families and friends of the victims, know that we'll do everything we can to help you and our city heal.

"We are Vegas Strong."

READ: Las Vegas hockey team retires No. 58 to honor concert victims

In Macbeth, Shakespeare suggested we give words to our sorrow. In Engelland's address, he tried eloquently to give words, apply some hope and healing to the unfathomable sorrow being felt in the city, especially by those most affected by the senseless tragedy.

His speech -- like the moment of silence requested at T-Mobile Arena -- was 58 seconds long, a second for all 58 souls lost in the massacre.

His promise, and by extension, his teammates' has no limits imposed by time; it is ongoing. What happened in the wake of that unspeakable violence, was transforming -- for the team and for Las Vegas.

From the depths of the despair that hung in the arena that opening night was a bond forged between this team and its new city that transcended sport and gave the NHL's latest franchise a mission that went far beyond wins and losses. The Vegas Golden Knights were playing now for their city. They played to heal.

"With October 1st, we all had to mature a little bit faster," Golden Knights forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare told CNN Sport.

"It's not about us, it's not about the team, not about salaries, not about stats. It was all about our strength to defend our town, because it is our town now."

Vegas centerman William Karlsson, who went from a previous high of nine goals to 43 -- the third best in the NHL last season -- added: "First of all it was pretty unbelievable that something like that could happen especially when you're there, too.

"It kind of made the whole team come together. I mean the whole city come together -- and they had a rally point in us, to come together at games, and I think that bond made us stronger. We had that connection with the city and the fans."

Vegas won that first game at T-Mobile Arena and eight of the next nine at home. The march was on to the most successful season by a true expansion franchise in NHL history -- it was a journey of Cinderella proportions that included most wins and road wins ever by a first-year franchise.

It also led straight to the Stanley Cup Final, all happening as the bond between team and city grew stronger.

Before Game Three of the final last June, CNN Sport asked George McPhee -- the Golden Knights general manager -- to look back on how the relationship between his team and the city of Las Vegas was shaped by their shared sense of profound loss.

READ: How NHL plans to grow in China ahead of 2022 Winter Olympics

Clearly moved by the memories, McPhee offered this: "The unfortunate events of October 1 changed things, and sometimes in the wake of tragedy, you know, something more beautiful happens.

"And a beautiful thing happened in Vegas, the way that community came together, the way this team came together -- as a team and for the city -- was a really remarkable thing.

"If you were close to it, it was really something to experience."

Engelland and his Golden Knights teammates lost their bid to become 2018 Stanley Cup champions, falling in five games to the Washington Capitals. But while they may have failed to win the right to lift the Cup, they achieved something that will live forever in the collective hearts of Las Vegas.

They lifted spirits in the city's darkest times. They helped to bring some light, bring some healing. They are champions.

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 69°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 68°
Decatur
Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 69°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 61°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
Conecuh97922
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 708717

Reported Deaths: 8859
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby787951178
Davidson73045693
Knox40173443
Hamilton35861338
Rutherford34166296
Unassigned23960137
Williamson22175144
Sumner18819232
Out of TN1639083
Montgomery15154149
Wilson14846164
Sullivan12961220
Blount12366134
Washington12184205
Maury11295131
Bradley1121098
Sevier10839122
Putnam10187152
Madison9344183
Robertson791887
Hamblen7244118
Anderson7013114
Greene6766116
Tipton638069
Coffee578182
Gibson5761116
Dickson558482
Cumberland555676
Bedford544991
Roane535082
Lawrence523369
McMinn522774
Carter5199119
Warren511255
Loudon508952
Jefferson496078
Dyer486986
Monroe471663
Hawkins460672
Franklin424965
Fayette414652
Obion406483
Rhea391357
Lincoln387847
Marshall357939
Cocke356561
Cheatham349531
Weakley345648
Campbell338441
Henderson338259
Giles333376
Carroll318261
White317747
Hardeman315654
Hardin306350
Lauderdale299234
Macon294651
Wayne270424
Henry269159
Overton260146
McNairy248942
DeKalb247342
Haywood245548
Marion236033
Smith235530
Trousdale230716
Scott230332
Hickman229735
Claiborne228833
Fentress217735
Grainger216939
Johnson205234
Morgan197316
Crockett183438
Chester178539
Bledsoe178111
Unicoi170045
Cannon161620
Lake158421
Polk150017
Decatur148927
Union145425
Grundy143022
Sequatchie141919
Humphreys137317
Benton134035
Lewis131021
Meigs119116
Stewart112120
Jackson106123
Clay96526
Perry96225
Houston95125
Moore8299
Pickett69220
Van Buren6748
Hancock4197

Community Events