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Hockey Community Takes Center Stage

Hockey Family Finding Ways to Get Through Time Together

by Gary Lawless and Gordon Weigers @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

All across Nevada, people are dealing with a new reality including the players, management and staff of your Vegas Golden Knights.

While kids switched to virtual learning across the state, parents stayed at home to work, and others battled on the frontlines of the COVID-19, there was also a switch in how the Golden Knights organization operated.

The offices at City National Arena were mostly dark, the parking lots empty and the ice uncluttered.

As the CDC announced all gatherings larger than 50 people would take a 60-day pause, the reality for pro sports teams including the Golden Knights began to sink in. There would be no NHL hockey for at least two months.

VGK team President Kerry Bubolz enacted a work-from-home program for team employees, and players began a period of social distancing.

VGK owner Bill Foley and members within the organization also stepped forward with a major financial pledge to help part-time employees affected by the NHL season pause.

He announced organization-wide efforts to assist part-time game day employees and arena hourly on-call staff who were previously scheduled to work the remaining home games at T-Mobile Arena through the end of the regular season. The Golden Knights organization, players and Vegas Golden Knights Foundation will combine resources and planning to support those employees who may miss shifts due to the pause in the NHL season and pledge a minimum of $500,000 to these efforts.

Leading the player contributions is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has committed to donating $100,000.

The organization, however, remains hopeful there will be more hockey and eventually the Stanley Cup will be awarded. In this light, the franchise continues to hum with activity albeit in a new mostly remote fashion.

The challenge for the VGK content team is to continue to provide fans with a full menu of ways to interact with their favorite team.

Television broadcast partner AT&T SportsNet selected a slate of VGK instant classic games and began airing them Wednesday night.

Podcasts, written articles, livestream reports and social media initiatives all began to pop up despite the lack of live games.

The week of Golden Knights content started with a Knights Report that had a Fireside Chat feel to it. It felt too soon to laugh or have fun. But we found a way to find the light and a few reasons to smile. Some compelling podcasts, FaceTimes from Deryk Engelland, Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore, and updates on players' lives reminded us that we're all in this together, though we're physically apart.

We've reached a point where working collaboratively has shifted from swinging by someone's desk to hopping on the phone. Some have memorized the phone number and pin of our conference line. No single person can fill the void left by the sport's pause and it's a common recognition of that fact that drives the VGK content team from top to bottom.

Whether a team was finding its stride during an important point of the season or just waiting for Game 82, every NHL team is halted in its tracks. The mid-season offseason caught teams off-guard, but the content continued to flow from all 31. Some teams created custom phone background for fans, others passed out compliments to opposition and players shared messages of safety and positivity through selfie videos. Even the Notre Dame hockey team shared a laugh with fans by posting a video of a skate-less player hopping from the penalty box to the bench during a shift.

For Golden Knights fans, the pause has opened doors into players' lives that would otherwise remain closed. Nate Schmidt has found peace doing yoga and working on difficult puzzles, and he's shared all of this on his Instagram. Engelland is making fitness a family affair by getting his sons involved in staying active. Marchessault showed fans his hockey setup in his yard during a Knights Report stream and provided some humor with his own camera work.

To say that hockey is gone from our lives would be false. Hockey is more than the sport that takes place on the ice. It's the community that surrounds the game that defines what each person feels when they think the word. The Golden Knights preach that community is a contact sport just like hockey. Though that community currently deals with unfamiliar proximity, the contact remains.

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