I was 23 and shivering in a rink in small-town Canada watching tryouts for a junior A hockey club and it was heaven. It was my first experience as a sports writer and in no way did it flash across my mind that hockey and the chance to talk and write about it for a living would one day lead me to Las Vegas.
Now it's my job to tell the story of the Golden Knights. From the moment GM George McPhee and his management group select their first expansion draft player to the night head coach Gerard Gallant fills out his first lineup card to the moment the first goal is scored in Golden Knights history to when that first win is recorded - I get to be there. Front row and inside the ropes. The prospects for this franchise and this city are endless. It's exhilarating to look at the cleanest sheet of ice in pro hockey and to wonder what stories will unfold.
The Golden Knights are constructing a media team to bring you every story. Behind the scenes access, player interviews and profiles, podcasts and tweets. While the players will be striving to score goals and win games - we'll be there to record every drop of sweat, every trade and every Golden Knights moment.
Back in the day, I worked at a newspaper that boasted the slogan, "We're there for you," and that's the case with our Golden Knights media team. Think of us as your eyes and ears. And your friends. We're going to be interactive and accessible. The Golden Knights are your team and so are we.
Hockey has taken me to Russia, Peoria, Chicago, Syracuse, Winnipeg, New York and beyond. It's a journey which has witnessed gold medals, black eyes, the resurrection of a franchise, Stanley Cups, labor talks, playoff losses and now the birth of a team.
From the Thunder Bay Flyers to the old IHL to the Manitoba Moose to the AHL to the Winnipeg Jets to the NHL and now Las Vegas.
I guess I'm a hockey lifer. And now I'm a Golden Knight. It still doesn't seem real. It all started with a text message and now here I am in Las Vegas getting ready to embark on the adventure of this hockey life.
An expansion franchise in the entertainment capital of the world.
My career has been blessed. I've been on the ice while teams celebrate winning the Stanley Cup and been in dressing rooms minutes after teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. Standing off to the side with a notepad in hand, scribbling down notes and later passing on the details from a minute in time people wanted to share and re-share. To tell and re-tell. Those stories take on a life of their own within a fanbase. They become the connective tissue which joins a team with a city and its people.
Teams give communities something to gather around. They become a vehicle for bonding and sharing. The Golden Knights are about to be the team which represents Las Vegas around the world.
People have told me stories about getting into a cab in Helsinki and having the driver ask where they are from and when they replied Winnipeg, the driver smiled and said, "Jets."
Proud people from Las Vegas are about to experience a similar phenomenon. This hockey team is about to become part of the fabric, part of the image and part of the soul of Vegas.
This hockey team is about to become yours. The players will be your neighbors. They'll eat at your restaurants and their kids will go to your schools. And this team will play for you.
There's going to be a bonding. A marriage of team and fans that no one can explain. But it will happen and while it will be hard to pinpoint the moment when this crosses from an idea born in Bill Foley's mind into a living, breathing organism - you will feel it when it happens.
One night you'll be standing in front of your seat, screaming and stomping as the Golden Knights fight to hang on to a lead late in a game and it will hit you: You care.
Maybe they'll win and you'll drive home happy. Or maybe they'll lose and you'll wake up the next day feeling grumpy. Both are going to happen and it will matter to you because of that emotional investment fans make in their teams. Las Vegas is going to grow an attachment with the Golden Knights. You will have your favorite players, jerseys and memories. So will I.
My hockey journey has taken me to many places and shown me many things.
Let's go on this next one together.