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Round 1

Another Vegas first: Incredible pregame playoff party

Concert, tattoos, photos with showgirls highlight celebration

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights helped Brandon Scroggins get his stolen truck back, but that wasn't why he was having the team's shield logo permanently tattooed onto the back of his left hand.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Kings series coverage]

 

Luc Roy, a Montreal native who has called Las Vegas home for the past two and a half years, had his military-regulation haircut under a shocking gold wig. Roy had abandoned his beloved Canadiens -- "and it was an easy abandonment," he said -- when the Golden Knights arrived in the desert. His wife Dina, whom he met when they were stationed in Alaska, was 'knighted' by the expansion team this season when she threw her Philadelphia Flyers jersey on the ground and swore never to wear it again.

Scroggins and a dyed-in-the-Golden-Knights-wool husband and wife were among the human sea of Las Vegas hockey fans crashing like waves into scorching Toshiba Plaza on Wednesday, all having come to T-Mobile Arena looking for a party.

And oh my, did they find one.

Video: Vegas fans enjoy playoff atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena

It seems that everything the Golden Knights have done this remarkable season has been a first. On Wednesday, they played their first Stanley Cup Playoff game in history, against the Los Angeles Kings. If you left T-Mobile Arena after the pregame presentation, a stunning visual display and sonic assault, you got more than your money's worth.

But then you'd have missed the Golden Knights first playoff goal and their first lead in a playoff game, scored by Shea Theodore 3:23 into the first period.

From before their first NHL game, the Golden Knights have been embraced by this market. They were deeply involved in the healing of the community after 58 people were killed Oct. 1 in a mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. The team fanned out into Vegas and beyond, adopting their fans as much as their fans adopted them.

And then they skated into the NHL and played lights-out hockey, winning the Pacific Division title in their inaugural season, seemingly against all odds.

Their first playoff game was more than shots and saves and goals on a rink. It was an event, a community galvanized once again by their team. 

Scroggins was among those attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival when shots rang out. Emotion chokes his voice when he speaks of the night.

"To me, the tattoo is more than just the team, it's how this team came around the city after that tragedy, just to bring everybody together," Scroggins, a Detroit native, said. "I was living here, trying to leave. Then when everything happened I watched how the team decided by themselves to come around the city. They sign anything you want today when they leave the rink. They do anything and everything for this city."

Scroggins would find work at the Golden Knights' practice-rink store, and the ink being needled under his skin on Wednesday would further cement his bond with the team.

"I'd have been here today if they were 0 and 82," he said. "They've shocked and surprised everybody. I just hope it continues. If they win the Stanley Cup, this will be a movie."

Then, as an afterthought, Scroggins remarked that the Golden Knights helped him get his stolen truck back. He had a team mural wall-to-wall on his tailgate, and the same afternoon the story of his truck's theft was aired on TV, he had it back.

Activities in Toshiba Plaza included permanent and temporary tattoos, an airbrush artist, face- and hair-painting, interactive golf, a shooting cage, sandbag toss and photos with Vegas showgirls. Above the crowd two hours before face-off, on an arena balcony, rapper Logic performed a brisk set that turned up the energy even more.

The lineup at the Revolt Tattoos station was dozens long, owner Jason Wetzel directing traffic to two artists inking the primary or secondary Golden Knights logo most anywhere a fan -- 18 or older -- wanted it.

"We could have six or eight artists here, but this is a first try, going in easy to show what we can do," said Wetzel, who expects to be back in Toshiba Plaza on Friday before Game 2.

Luc and Dina, Golden Knights season-ticket holders, were front of the line somewhere else. They were at the arena's security gates, surely to be among the first fans to enter the arena when the doors opened.

Luc said he missed eight home games this season, seven when work took him overseas. He and Dina are more than fans, they're involved with the team's Vegas Junior Knights, raising money to help youngsters in the sport.

Along with his neon wig, Luc was wearing a Ryan Reaves jersey. 

"[Pierre-Édouard] Bellemare is on my away jersey, so I didn't want to jinx us by wearing it tonight," he said with a laugh.

Dina said a transfer from Alaska to Philadelphia made her a Flyers fan, then relocation to Chicago changed her allegiance to the Blackhawks. Like her husband's disposal of the Canadiens, she jokes that the Golden Knights have erased both the Flyers and Blackhawks from her consciousness. 

The energy outside the arena in the hours before Game 1 was tremendous, Stanley Cup fever having infected everyone in the plaza. And then you moved indoors and it was plain to see that this would be quite unlike anything hockey had seen before.

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