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Centennial Fan Arena

Golden Knights attract fans from far, wide for home opener

Impressed by pregame ceremony, support of residents

by Danny Webster / Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- Phil and Sharon Schulyer remember how they felt in 1992 when the Tampa Bay Lightning joined the NHL.

The London, Ontario natives wanted to come to Las Vegas and recapture that sense of excitement they felt for the Lightning 25 years ago.

Phil was a Tampa Bay fan that entire time.

"I've switched teams now," he said Wednesday.

Phil was one of the 18,191 fans who witnessed the Vegas Golden Knights home opener at T-Mobile Arena, a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.

Sharon, however, was not. She stayed at the hotel and watched the game on TV, where she caught the pregame ceremony when the Golden Knights honored the 58 victims killed in a mass shooting on Oct. 1.

"It almost brought me to tears," Sharon said.

The couple were two of the early visitors to the NHL Centennial Fan Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. Guests were able to enjoy an interactive museum featuring a touch-screen display of the Stanley Cup, helmets from former players, and goalie masks dating to the 1950s.

They also signed banners spread across the perimeter spelling "strong." Signatures of families and fans of other NHL teams packed each letter.

The Stanley Cup was available for photos, but Winnipeg native Allaan Morrison had done that enough times before. He was there to witness Vegas become the first expansion team in NHL history to start 3-0-0.

"When you see people just almost everywhere and they have jerseys, T-shirts, hats, it means everybody's aware of it," Morrison said. "[This city is] behind them."

Even though they're not from Las Vegas, visitors could easily sense what the residents were going through. Phil said it was a classic example of how sports can heal in times of tragedy.

He also made sure to buy a "Vegas Strong" T-shirt before he and Sharon head back to Canada.

As much as they would like to, they can't stay for the game Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. But they're firmly behind their new team and can't wait to come back.

"It was well worth it," Phil said. "I just had the experience of my life. I met new people from the area who were glad to be at the game with me, shared a beer with them, and we just had a great time."

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