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Golden Knights Strike First Win Out Of The Ashes Of Tragedy

Vegas, team and city, united under the #VegasStrong banner on Friday

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

DALLAS - The week began with the sickening rattle of gunfire. It ended with skates carving ice and pucks banging against boards and iron posts. The familiar noise of hockey.

Nothing can erase the soundtrack of Sunday. It's etched forever in the minds of Las Vegas.

There can be no happy ending to this week.

Fifty-eight people lost their lives and more than 500 others were wounded. There's no taking that back. It's part of Las Vegas now and forever.

A hockey team taking its first steps, figuring out its identity and offering itself up to Las Vegas is a sidebar story. A footnote to this tear-stained page of a city's history.
 

Video: Fleury reacts to Vegas' 2-1 win on Opening Night

 

Friday night, both the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars wore #VegasStrong stickers on their helmets. Both teams stood together across one blueline rather than facing one another for the national anthem and a moment of silence. They formed a united front before slipping into the vigor and passion of an NHL contest.

Professional athletes seemingly operate in a bubble, often disconnected from the day in and day out struggles of ordinary people. This week the Golden Knights proved they were far more than the numbers on their jerseys and their contracts. They provided love and humanity and friendship to a community they've only called their own for a matter of weeks.

Golden Knights GM George McPhee said on Wednesday his team would be part of the process of moving forward in Las Vegas. To, "grieve, heal and persevere," along with their neighbors in Vegas.

The hockey team isn't a symbol of the strength and resilience in Vegas. That belongs in entirety to the people. The Golden Knights are an opportunity to shine a light on the good which has been seen in Vegas this week. There is a responsibility which the Golden Knights, new kid on the block or not, must live up to as an organization. The team must honor the victims. It must comfort the survivors and it must provide an outlet of distraction.

"Our people have been fantastic. I'm extremely proud of the way the organization has responded. We needed to respond and we have," said Golden Knights chairman and CEO Bill Foley. "Our players have visited with first responders, victims, nurses, doctors and volunteers. George McPhee asked our players if they wanted to participate and voluntarily they have done so much. They asked what they could do and they got completely engaged. We've already raised $500,000 and we're going to raise more money for victim relief. Further, my goal is to make sure the police, firefighters and hospitals are set with the right equipment to get the job done. That's our responsibility. We're a community team, we're Vegas born. We're part of the community and and we're going to do whatever we can to help. It's heartwarming to see what our people, to a man and a woman, have accomplished. When I got this team, I said we were going to be Las Vegas' team. And we're proving that."

 

Video: VGK@DAL: Neal notches Golden Knights' first goal


Sports teams like to consider themselves part of the DNA of the cities they play in. But there's some weight to be carried in such a bargain and the Golden Knights are now on the spot. The entire organization must shine right now. There's no getting this wrong.

"Our home opener was going to be this great show of entertainment but we've changed our role," said Foley. "This is going to be an important night in the history of Las Vegas. Tuesday is about Las Vegas. About honoring the survivors and the first responders. We have to make sure we properly honor the people that were killed or injured. We need to make sure Las Vegas is pleased with how we handle this. We need to prove we are here to support the community."

Monday the team's offices were somber and filled with the fear of the unknown. But Tuesday morning the torch had been picked up. Team president Kerry Bubolz offered counselling and asked the staff to give each other love and encouragement. Then he led his team as they tossed out plans a year in the making for next week's home opener and began to re-write the script.

McPhee stood before his players in a meeting and asked if they would be willing to step into the community to help. Their answer, a resounding yes, had McPhee refer to his dressing room as being filled with "23 captains."

"It's not something we have to do. It's something we want to do," said defensemen Nate Schmidt. "We haven't been here long but this is our town now. We're part of the fabric here now. And we want to help. Whatever we can do, it's small in comparison to the first responders and the people who helped each other on the scene, we want to do it. If we can provide a distraction and some hope - that's what we want to do."

 

Video: VGK@DAL: Neal nets his second goal of the game



They visited blood banks, stood arm-in-arm with first responders and opened their arms to offer comfort to victims and their families.

They mirrored Las Vegas, which showed its heart this week in making tens of millions of dollars in donations. Too much blood, food, clothing, shelter and money was donated this week. Much of what was put forth was shipped to Houston and Puerto Rico to help hurricane survivors in those towns. Vegas' cup of charity runneth over, indeed.

This is pro sport and, of course, the show must go on. So they did indeed play a hockey game on Friday night. The score doesn't matter. The points will count towards one team's pursuit of a playoff spot but in terms of historical significance who won and who lost is of no import.

For Vegas, it was a step towards healing.

It also marked the end of the most horrific of weeks. But it also provided a sign that next week will be better. It must be.

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