Before I sat down to write this, I had something gnawing on me all day. It came to my attention that there are people out there who believe that the Vegas Golden Knights and their front offices paid the NHL to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. They are insinuating that because of October 1, the city needed something good so the league was gifted millions to make our first season a success.
As a writer, it’s my duty to be objective and note that everyone is entitled to their opinion, because they are. But as a Golden Knights fan, a Medieval Maniac, my opinion is that that opinion is a crock of bull.
This is going to be a bit of a personal post, and I apologize, but please bear with me, because it’s going to be worth it.
From the Steel City to the City of Lights
I myself grew up right outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until I was 22 years old. I was born 10 minutes from the city center, so I’ve bled black and gold since day one. My football team is the Steelers, my baseball team is the not-so-hot Pirates, and my hockey team was the Penguins.
I moved across the country because I couldn’t stand the cold and the snow anymore, so I went from one extreme to the other. My love for the Pens, though, I carried with me. They won two Stanley Cups since my move, and I was as proud as a peacock the day after (especially when they sent the San Jose Sharks packing in 2016).
When Vegas was announced as an expansion team, I am ashamed to admit that I was on the side of the naysayers. “Hockey in the desert? It will never work” and “don’t expect them to be a Stanley Cup contending team for a while” were often murmured through the city streets and around the country. Not only vocalized by some, but also thoughts that went through my head. Still, I would probably get to see my Pens locally, so that was a little bonus incentive for me to start liking our then-unnamed team.
Even after our logo and name were announced, and the expansion draft took place, I wasn’t entirely sold on the team. Sure, they now had Marc-Andre Fleury, and a bit of my loyalty remained with him, but who the heck was Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula? New names, new team…it didn’t sit right with me.
Healing a Heartbroken City
Then October 1st happened.
I was just going to bed that night and saw a news alert pop up on Facebook about a shooting near the festival. At first, I didn’t think anything of it as the news didn’t make it seem so bad. I thought it was a drug deal gone wrong or something.
A few minutes later, I got a message from family back home. “I heard about the shooting. Are you and your boyfriend okay?”
…What the heck?
I actually tuned in to the news, and I felt the wind get knocked out of me. I had family and friends at the festival, ones who had just posted that they were having a great time. Worried, I reached out to who I could, and they were okay (thank God). But I still kept tuning in through the night and into the morning. Devastated and heartbroken don’t even begin to cover it.
Into the morning though, I started seeing posts about hope, love, and unity crop up. One really caught my attention, however.
The Golden Knights, this group of misfit players from other teams who had the odds stacked against them from Day One, immediately went to Metro, United Blood Services, and to the convention center where a family assistance center was established. This city, which greeted them with a bit of pushback, was all new to them. However, they didn’t hesitate to jump into action and assist this community…their new community, to heal and unite in the face of tragedy and adversity.
Las Vegas residents aren’t all Vegas Born. Several are transplants from other cities, much like myself, so we all previously had allegiances to other teams. That day, though, and watching the Golden Knights during that first home game, we all were Vegas Strong.
Defying All Odds: the 2017-2018 Season
Their 2017-2018 season from there on out was certainly a doozy. They set records left and right, for the franchise and for the NHL as a whole. It was interesting to watch these guys – who were all rivals at one point – come together and prove that they were a force to be reckoned with.
They were also proving their old teams wrong. For the expansion draft, the already established clubs were allowed to protect a certain number of players. Others, like the ones Vegas drafted to make the Golden Knights, were left exposed and up for grabs.
I was lucky enough to see the Golden Knights host the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 14, 2017. It was a gut-twisting game, as a Pens fan. I was cheering for the Pens, but I was cheering for the Golden Knights as well. I wanted them to do well.
By the end of the night, it was obvious where my allegiances were lying. The Penguins took the back burner, and the Golden Knights were my new favorites.
That year, they would go on to the Stanley Cup Playoffs where no one expected them to go. Many expected them to get eliminated within the first two rounds. No. Not only did they shut out the L.A. Kings in the first round, but they blew past San Jose and Winnipeg to make it to the Stanley Cup Final…on their own merit.
We Are Vegas Strong
Since then, my love for the Golden Knights has only grown. I’ve seen sports teams and athletes help their community, but the Golden Knights really take it to another level. They’re constantly holding clinics for underprivileged kids, visiting hospitals or volunteering at food drives. Many of them have started their own charities, including Deryk Engelland’s “Engo’s Heroes.” This foundation’s purpose is to publicly recognize and reward those in the community who are constantly seeking to benefit the city of Las Vegas.
I watched a city so “divided” by sports allegiances become united, both through tragedy and through one team. I witnessed this group of castaways partner up to uplift and assist a community that wasn’t necessarily welcoming. They still strive to make Las Vegas a better place. Every time I see it, my heart turns a little less black and gold and a little more steel and gold (if that’s even possible at this point).
We had a breakout season. We defied all odds that were stacked against us. When you don’t conform to expectations, you’re going to be met with adversity and haters. All we can say is “bless your heart,” and we will forever be Vegas Strong.