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New NHL Team In Las Vegas Honors Victims Of Mass Shooting


You know, there are times when sports are more than fun and games. In the weeks after 9/11, it was a big deal, a big emotional lift, when the New York Yankees from a city that was attacked made the World Series. Just over one week after a mass shooting in Las Vegas, that city welcomed its first professional sports franchise. It's a hockey team, the Golden Knights. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Vegas does shows, right? So was there any doubt the city would nail one of its most important shows in recent memory, one that required a delicate balance between giddy elation and grief?


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, athletes are often referred to as heroes. Tonight, as we introduce your Vegas Golden Knights, we'd like to introduce our heroes, the heroes of Las Vegas.

GOLDMAN: One by one, nurses, doctors, police, firefighters, those on duty when bullets rained down from the Mandalay Bay Hotel walked out onto the ice, each one escorted by a Golden Knights player. It was part of a pre-game ceremony that aimed to inspire. Vegas Strong was written on the boards around the rink, replacing the advertising that's normally there. And there were moments that were haunting - 58 seconds of silence.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: For the 58 individuals who lost their lives on 1 October.

GOLDMAN: And finally, Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland with a pledge.


DERYK ENGELLAND: And know that we'll do everything we can to help you and our city heal.


GOLDMAN: Healing takes time. Thrilling can happen in an instant. And that's what the Golden Knights did as they easily lived up to their part of the show. The first goal came when the game was two and a half minutes old; then three more for a total of four in the first period, two of them scored by left winger James Neal. He said the crowd deserved an assist for the blazing start.

JAMES NEAL: Fired up right from the start, we could hear them there. This building's pretty packed in. Like, the way it is, it's - the fans are on top of you, so you can hear them. It's a good building.

GOLDMAN: While the Golden Knights channeled the building's energy into a goal-scoring onslaught, many of those who watched were left reeling by the swing of emotions. Las Vegas resident Carolyn Knight, whose friend was injured in the shooting attack, wept during the ceremony...

CAROLYN KNIGHT: It was really - I'm so glad that I had some napkins in my bag.

GOLDMAN: ...And roared during the first period.

KNIGHT: Jaw-dropping because that doesn't happen in hockey, man. I'm a hockey fan.

GOLDMAN: The Golden Knights beat Arizona 5 to 2. Las Vegas now is undefeated in its first three games. Last night, when it was over, the team raised its sticks to the crowd, some of whom had left at the start of the third period. Those who stayed waved back with white towels, a mutual acknowledgement of a job well done. Expansion teams don't stay unbeaten, and Vegas crowds always can be lured away by the next big show. But it appears after one emotional night, the Golden Knights set some roots in a city craving relief and a home team finally to call its own.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Las Vegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACY CHATTAWAY'S "SHIMMER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on