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Golden Knights Becoming A Team For Their New City

Recent events have brought Golden Knights players together as the regular season beckons

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Some things are easy to make. You buy the materials and then follow the instructions. Next thing you know there's a new deck in the backyard or a dollhouse in a child's bedroom. Constructing a team? It's not a paper transaction or a by-the-book operation. It's about people meshing together to accomplish a common goal. Ego, cultural background, language and personalities all get thrown into the soup before it's put on the burner of competition.

A team must withstand heating and cooling. It can't fray when adversity arrives. Injuries and slumps and trades and contract disputes all conspire to destruct a team.

Some groups take years to reach their peak strength. Other groups fail altogether to gel.
 

Video: Luca Sbisa speaks about VGK's leadership

 

Every member of the Vegas Golden Knights played for a different team last season. They were assembled via an expansion draft and free agency. The NHL stipulates clubs operate with a 23-player roster. The process has been uber fast and in many ways incongruent. Sixty-one players came to camp and competed for jobs. Literally trying to push one another out of their livelihoods while attempting to form the bonds which create a team.

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"It's definitely been a challenge. It's tough to bond as a group when everyone is still fighting for positions," said winger Reilly Smith. "I think we did a good job at just trying to do team dinners and team events outside of the rink during training camp. Just to be able to get to know each other and to get to know people's backgrounds and their families. That goes a long way once the season starts."

Golden Knights GM George McPhee said on Wednesday the team wouldn't name a captain but instead would go with six alternates. Three players to wear As on their sweaters for home games and three different players for the road. Those alternates are expected to be named prior to Friday's season opener in Dallas against the Stars.

 

Video: Reilly Smith spoke after Wednesday's practice

 

McPhee, remarking on how his players had stepped into the community of Las Vegas following Sunday's shootings which left 60 people dead and over 500 wounded, said this Wednesday: "With respect to how our players have responded in light of Sunday's tragedy - we think we have 23 captains here."

Vegas may not have a player wearing a C on his jersey this season but Deryk Engelland has been a de facto leader with this group from the moment his name was called out at the expansion draft.

"I think at the end of the day you don't need a letter on your jersey to lead in different ways in the locker room. To have an 'A' or a 'C', whatever it is, it's a huge honor but you don't need one to lead," said Engelland. "I think we have a lot of good guys in here from a lot of different teams that can bring things from those teams into our dressing room and build a culture that's even stronger. Like (McPhee) said, we have 23 guys in here that can all lead in different ways."

 

Video: Cody Eakin spoke on Wednesday at City National Arena

 

Engelland said the Golden Knights knew that forming a team was a major challenge heading into training camp.

RELATED: Golden Knights part of healing process

"I think everyone knew coming in that it's a different circumstance here. You've got a whole new team instead of just a few guys," he said. "I think guys right away were hanging out together outside of the rink. Going for lunch or having guys over for dinner. Just getting together and things like that. You come in and guys were here an hour and a half before you had to be. Just little things like that help. You get to know a guy on a more personal basis and it carries over to the games where you're a tight group in here and it's going to carry onto the ice and you're going to play that much harder for one another."

For Luca Sbisa, the Golden Knights reminded him of an international hockey experiment. Countrymen culled together from club teams bond around their flag. For the Knights - it was all about Vegas and being in a new place together.

 

Video: Nate Schmidt on being part of Vegas



"I think we bonded really quick. Even my wife, she saw it too. We had a big team dinner. Everyone brought their kids and their families and everything. She said 'this team seems like everyone has known each other for a long time,"' said Sbisa. "I explained to her that last year at the World Cup it was kind of the same situation with Team Europe. A bunch of guys who didn't know each other put together on a team. You kind of get forced to bond right away, you don't have another choice. There were no prior cliques since no one really knew each other, it helped the process."

On Tuesday and Wednesday, members of the Golden Knights were dispatched into the community of Las Vegas to take part in the beginning of the city's healing process. They met with first responders, victims and volunteers. Smith said his teammates interacting in an entirely unique situation brought them closer together.

RELATED: Golden Knights partner with NHL to donate to victims

"You do see a different side of people away from the rink when tragedies like this happen and that only builds you as a team," said Smith.

 

Video: Deryk Engelland spoke to media on Wednesday

 

Forward Cody Eakin says team and teammate are more than words and figuring out how to embody those sentiments goes a long way for a team.

"I think a teammate is somebody you can trust and someone you know who is going to be there in good times and in bad times," said Eakin. "It's a long season. There's a lot of ups and a lot of downs.

Sometimes you need a teammate who is going to help you through the hard times whether it's on the ice or off the ice. When the good times are high, it's easy to be a teammate but when the times are low that's when guys really step up. You kind of find out you can trust these guys. These are my teammates and they're here for me no matter what. So you really see the different side of it while you're going through low times as a team or as an individual and that happens a lot during the long season.

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