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Golden Knights fans united by random act of kindness

Vegas supporter from Canada gives extra ticket to playoff opener to Las Vegas first responder

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The man walked into Enterprise Area Command, a substation of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The front counters were busy, so he sat and waited.

After about 10 minutes, someone walked out a side door and spotted him in his Vegas Golden Knights gear. They talked hockey.

It was about 1 p.m. on April 11. The Golden Knights, an NHL expansion team and Las Vegas' first major league sports team, had made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and were playing the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at T-Mobile Arena in six hours.

 

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"As a matter of fact, the reason I'm here is not because I have to see those guys," the man said, referring to the front counters. "It's because I have an extra ticket and I want to give the ticket away."

"Really? Is that really why you're here?"

"That's why I'm here."

The man was Roxy Harbourne, 62, a retired junior high principal from Red Deer, Alberta, and we know that only because an officer happened to mention this while we were working on another story. We wanted to learn more and reached out for an interview. The more we learned, the more we were inspired.

Harbourne didn't do it for attention. He did it as a random act of kindness in a city healing from an act of violence. He did it to give back to a first responder, not only because of what first responders did Oct. 1, when 58 people were killed and hundreds injured in the mass shooting on the Strip, but because of what they do each day.

"Here's a gentleman who is from another country who has embraced the Vegas Golden Knights, who came here and honored one of our officers with an opportunity to see Game 1 of the playoffs," said Captain Todd Raybuck, the bureau commander. "Just showed up. Just wanted to support the police.

"It was very moving."

* * * 

Harbourne and his wife, Donna Strating, bought a vacation condo in Las Vegas last year to escape the cold. Harbourne had played and coached hockey, and been an Edmonton Oilers fan, watching Wayne Gretzky at Northlands Coliseum. With the Golden Knights joining the NHL, they thought it would be fun to buy two seats for 10 games.

His wife never got the chance to go. She died from cancer Dec. 17 at age 61.

Harbourne went to four games and became captivated by the story of the Golden Knights, who honored the victims, their families and the first responders after Oct. 1, and went on to shatter records for first-year teams.

When Vegas made the playoffs he bought two tickets to each game in the first round. His son Bryant could come down from Vancouver for Game 2 but not for Game 1, so he had an extra ticket. He could have made a lot of money by selling it, but he wanted the right person in that seat.

"I didn't want to give it to a Los Angeles Kings person," Harbourne said. "I wanted it to be a Vegas person."

Ideally, a Vegas first responder.

When Harbourne was principal of Clover Bar Junior High in Sherwood Park, Alberta, he got along well with his resource officer and particularly appreciated the service of police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

"They're very underrated," Harbourne said. "They're there; we take them for granted. They make our lives the way that they are today."

The school also had a program to promote random acts of kindness.

"Our counselor every year would set up for a whole week, and we would try to instill in the kids the whole concept of doing things for other people for no reason," Harbourne said. "It was a tremendous way to show and model really positive kinds of behavior. I was a big believer in that particular program, but I'm somebody who likes to help people, likes to do things for people. Just makes me feel good when I do that kind of thing."

Harbourne wasn't sure how to go about this. He had offered tickets to first responders for free on the Internet during the regular season, but no one had responded. He was at a bank the day of the game and mentioned he was trying to figure out how to give his extra ticket to a first responder when he was told a police station was down the street.

"Why not?" he thought.

So he drove over and walked in. He ended up speaking to Raybuck, who took his information, and left not knowing who would join him.

* * * 

Sergeant Justin Van Nest suggested the ticket go to Officer Keith Twigger. Twigger, 38, had grown up in California, played hockey and been a Kings fan, watching Gretzky play at the Forum, but was now all about the Golden Knights. As Twigger left work about 4 p.m., he spoke to Raybuck's assistant.

"Hey, what are you doing tonight?" she asked.

"I'm going to watch the hockey game somewhere," he said.

"You want to be there?" she asked.

Twigger was stunned.

"Not only is it historic, it's Game 1, but it's against the L.A. Kings, who I grew up watching," he said. "So I was really excited."

Twigger texted Harbourne, who transferred the ticket electronically, and they met in the seats, each in a Golden Knights jersey. Twigger brought Harbourne a limited-edition Oct. 1 police patch and bought him a beer, and they watched the game together, two strangers with a ton in common.

"I was really happy that the person who went to the game was such a good hockey person," Harbourne said. "He was keen and enthusiastic, and it was something he really wanted to do. That was neat."

It was a small thing. But what if more people did things like that? How big would that be?

"I didn't do it other than just to do it," Harbourne said. "But I'd like the message to get out that it's good to do this kind of thing. There's too much negative all the time. We don't have enough positive things."

***

 

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