LAS VEGAS - A decade ago, when defenseman Deryk Engelland was playing for Las Vegas of the ECHL, he never imagined the NHL would one day come to this city.
"I wouldn't even have thought of someone trying to bring a team here then," Engelland said.
But Engelland, 35, enjoyed his two years in the desert so much, he bought a home in the area, and it has been his offseason home since. Now after leaving the Calgary Flames and signing a free-agent contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, the veteran has become the go-to guy for his new teammates.
"I think for us outsiders, all we know about Vegas is pretty much the Strip, right?" goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "But from talking with Deryk Engelland, he told us how nice the suburbs are and how excited people are about the hockey team coming."
Normally when a player changes teams, he talks to his new teammates about the best places to live, the best schools for their kids, the hip restaurants and the good places to spend their off time.
But with an expansion team, everybody is moving. The Golden Knights have hired people to help with the process, but Engelland has been busy giving out his phone number.
"Just for guys to reach out if they need anything," Engelland said. "If it's a place to crash, to see things outside the Strip and come and look for place and whatnot. Dinners off the Strip, whatever it is, we're here."
Engelland is stressing Las Vegas is more than just its iconic Strip. The upscale Summerlin area is where the team's practice facility is being built and likely where most players will end up living.
"Take the guys to Red Rock and Mount Charleston, great spots to go and get away from the city and hike," Engelland said. "There's so much to see and do around the city that people don't know."
Engelland was 21 when he made his pro debut in Las Vegas in 2003, a few months after signing with the Flames. The ECHL team drew well and the Edmonton native fell in love with the city.
Video: CGY@FLA: Engelland crashes the net, pots rebound
Engelland made it to the NHL in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the past three seasons in Calgary, but his contract expired and he was on the Flames' unprotected list for the expansion draft.
Golden Knights general manager George McPhee called Engelland moments after the start of Vegas' 72-hour exclusive window to negotiate with free agents.
Engelland jumped at the chance. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract.
"Obviously, the weather is huge," he said. "You get out into the city and it's a beautiful city. It's clean and to raise your family here, it's no problem with that. So it was an easy decision to come here. And I'm a golfer, so having 50 courses in your backyard is a bonus. It's home now and I love everything about it.
"To start my pro career and hopefully finish my career here will be pretty exciting for me."
Engelland is ready to be a tour guide and part-time real estate agent for his new teammates. Fleury, the face of the new franchise, already has picked his brain. And based on all the messages he has received from friends and family looking to visit the tourist mecca, Fleury told Engelland of one need.
"I'll have to look for a house with a lot of bedrooms, I think," he said.