By: Jacqueline Brennan
How it All Began
June 21, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena, the Vegas Golden Knights’ journey to a historical inaugural season began with the first NHL expansion draft in 17 years.
All 30 teams in the league chose players they wished to protect from the draft and those they wished to allow Vegas to have access to. Due to this, Vegas was able to pick up key veteran players like Marc-Andre Fleury, Cody Eakin, Tomáš Nosek, Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson, among many other skilled players.
The Golden Knights opened their inaugural season with an 8-1 record, the best start to a season by any first-year franchise. They weren’t done yet. Throughout the season, the Golden Knights set records for being the fastest first-year team to reach 15 wins, tied the record for five game winning streaks by a first-year team, became the first first-year team to clinch a playoff berth since the Edmonton Oilers and Hartford Whalers of 1980, and the first first-year team to clinch their division.
At the beginning of the season, Vegas had odds of 200-1 of winning this year’s Stanley Cup: they were the runners up to the Washington Capitals, three wins away from capturing the Stanley Cup. Entering the playoffs, Vegas led the Pacific Division with 109 points and had home ice advantage in the first two rounds.
The Knights swept the Los Angeles Kings in round one, beat the San Jose Sharks in six games, and beat the Winnipeg Jets in five games, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, the Golden Knights were unable to cap off a historical season with the franchises’ first Stanley Cup, losing to the Capitals in five games.
Despite falling short of capturing Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Golden Knights have nothing to be ashamed of. Their season not only gave the league a new look, but had an impact on fans around the world.
Fans across the nation, including myself, tuned in to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but even before mid-April fans were keeping an eye on the rising team.
“I followed the Knights from the expansion draft and all the way through the playoffs,” said Dan Paskon, Chicago resident. “I mean how could you not? Their season was one for the ages, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the city.”
On October 1, 2017, the nation, but most importantly Las Vegas, was rocked by a mass shooting at a concert venue that killed 58 people. Some of the Golden Knights players had been enjoying dinner on the strip at the time of the shooting.
In a time of despair and agony, the Vegas Golden Knights organization came together and visited with first responders, victims of the shooting, and blood drive locations. On October 10, 2017, nine days after the horrific shooting, the Golden Knights hosted their first ever home game as they honored those lives lost on October 1st.
In a ceremony held before puck drop, the Golden Knights honored the first responders who were there that tragic night, held a 58-second moment of silence for those who died, and Assistant Captain Deryk Engelland gave a speech addressing the crowd promising that his team would do anything they could to help the city heal.
Taking further action, Deryk Engelland and his wife started a program that offered those affected by the terrible tragedy the opportunity to attend home games for free throughout the season.
On March 31, 2018, the Golden Knights retired the No. 58 for the number of lives lost on October 1, 2017.
“I was excited to see where Vegas would end up from the very beginning,” said Kyley Vicik, Chicago resident. “But after everything they did for the Vegas community and the NHL itself, how could you not root for them? As a Blackhawks fan, it was nice to see another team I had chosen to follow do so well in the absence of the Hawks.”
Sports are a form of escape from everyday problems, and the Golden Knights no exception. They were a beacon hope for the city of Las Vegas and they gave them something to be proud of for years to come.
What the Future Holds
The future is bright for this rising team in Las Vegas. They gave fans a season that no one had expected in their first year: records were broken and set, fans were brought together in despite of a horrific tragedy, and they showed everyone what true passion looks like.
Their season may not have ended how they hoped, but a Stanley Cup parade down the Las Vegas strip is in the near future.