The pregame show took a good 13 minutes and was as Las Vegas as you could imagine. The last piece of the puzzle was slowly raised to the rafters at T-Mobile Arena amid a deafening roar Tuesday night.
There was a massive slot machine involved and everything.
What a difference six years make.
The celebration was represented by a Stanley Cup championship banner, a symbol that will exist forever of the Golden Knights claiming their title in June. Players stood, arms around one another, glancing upward.
It was here — six years to the day — that another banner made its way toward the upper deck, the house that night a haven offering safety from the viciousness of terror.
Of remembering the initial 58 dead. Of that which personified Vegas Strong.
The first home game in franchise history in 2017 was part of the healing process, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the Route 91 Harvest festival still center stage in the hearts and minds and tears of a city whose very soul was ripped apart.
Six years later, a community gathered in unbridled joy from what its team accomplished on the ice. Six years ago, they did so for a needed diversion in regards to what occurred off it.
It was then-Knights defenseman and Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland who addressed the crowd beforehand that evening.
“It feels like it was yesterday, right?” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “It was a remarkable moment for the world but especially the people in Las Vegas. It was obviously a great speech from Deryk. It must be hard to be put in that position to speak there to the world like that. He did a great job. Obviously, October in Vegas, it’s always, we always remember it.”
And now, for this moment, this new season, they try to move on from all the parties and hoopla and Cup festivities. It began with a game against the Seattle Kraken. It began with a 4-1 victory.
I’m sure there is such a thing as a championship hangover. Happens in all sports. But what might allow the Knights to avoid any lack of focus, any tendency to rest on whatever laurels winning it all created, is the room.
They held a ring ceremony Sunday night— hey, who has thousands of dollars for a replica for something you didn’t win? — in which Mark Stone said this was an easy team to captain because of all its leaders. Because of the maturity within the group.
That will go a long ways in determining how quickly the Knights truly skate forward.
“Listen, I think we understand that the season has started, but you don’t want to overlook what we did by not enjoying these great experiences we get to have,” center Jack Eichel said. “I think it’s important to enjoy it and enjoy each other and make sure we’re staying in the moment about what we earned.
“We’ll find our game pretty quickly. That won’t be a problem.”
Said center William Karlsson: “It’s about playing hockey now and trying to win games.”
They talked a lot about measuring sticks this week. How the Knights, at least to begin things, will be one for most every opponent. How everyone wants to give their best shot against the champs. They talked a lot about matching intensity early on.
That’s the present. The part about banners and rings and parties and being the best side in the NHL.
But six years ago to the day later, we never forget the past.
“I think the (leadership) helps in moments like this with the banner going up,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “Sure, it’s emotional and exciting and all of the above. It’s all about balance. We’re ready to (move on). The banner is the last step.
“We accomplished it, and that was last year, and we want to go do it again.
“That’s kind of the end of the story.”
And the beginning of a new one.
Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.