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Golden Knights reach out to help Las Vegas heal after mass shooting

Players visit with police officers, families as part of effort to give back to community

by Danny Webster / Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- For the first time in 48 hours, officer John Purcell could smile.

Purcell, a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, approached Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Jason Garrison with a hat clutched in his right hand. Garrison signed it and followed that with a picture.

In a city trying to recover from a mass shooting on Sunday night that left at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, Las Vegas' first major professional sports team took to the community in an attempt to provide a glimmer of happiness. About 15 Golden Knights players visited department headquarters Tuesday. The room was filled with officers, families and children getting autographs and having their picture taken with the players.

"To be able to see these people smile after what they've been through the last few days, it's all worth it," defenseman Jon Merrill said. "You forget about the impact we're able to have as athletes on people, to bring some distraction and smiles to people's faces."

The visit from the Golden Knights did just that.

"As police officers, we try really hard to keep the community safe," Purcell said. "Looking at this now, and seeing how much the players appreciate us and how much we appreciate them, and then for us to come together as one big community, it's an unbelievable experience."

The Golden Knights returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since the shooting. The inaugural fan fest, set to take place on Monday, was canceled. The Golden Knights play their first regular-season game at the Dallas Stars on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, ATTSN-RM, FS-SW, NHL.TV) and their first home game against the Arizona Coyotes at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

Two days after the shooting, their concern was reaching out to the community. After the visit to the police department, the Golden Knights visited the United Blood Services location on West Charleston Boulevard.

"We feel we're already a part of the community," forward Alex Tuch said. "I think this is a good opportunity for us to give back and show we care."

About 10 Golden Knights players, including Tuch, were eating dinner at the Cosmopolitan at the time of the shooting, which occurred about a mile away at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

Defenseman Deryk Engelland, who has lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade and was home at the time of the shooting, got his teammates together before practice on Tuesday to make sure they knew how important they are in the community.

"We're grateful for our jobs and what we do, so just to be able to give back, especially in a circumstance like this is a huge honor for everyone in this room," Engelland said."

The Golden Knights, in a joint effort with the NHL and the Foley Family Charitable Trust, donated $300,000 toward the victims, their families and Las Vegas' first responders. The League is set to honor the victims during games this week.

The Golden Knights also plan to honor the victims and first responders before their home opener.

"We're going to be out there fighting for this city," Merrill said. "It'd be tough to find a dry eye in that building."

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