There was one question about the Golden Knights that I never got to ask coach Gerard Gallant.
“Is there an update on Clayton Stoner?”
Stoner, of course, was selected from Anaheim in the expansion draft, and the veteran defenseman played three preseason games.
Three days before the start of the season, the Knights placed Stoner on injured reserve with a mysterious ailment, and he became a ghost — save for a few ironic No. 4 jerseys scattered throughout T-Mobile Arena.
Unlike the other injured players throughout the season, Stoner never practiced at City National Arena. Not even in a red, noncontact jersey. Not once.
Essentially, the Knights paid him $3.25 million NOT to play.
Certainly, there were many other memorable moments from covering the Knights’ inaugural season.
An X-rated prank on Nate Schmidt. William Karlsson’s stick-between-the-legs goal to clinch the Pacific Division. Brad Hunt always saying hello.
But what I really wanted to know was whether Stoner was available for the Western Conference Final against Winnipeg.
Gallant would have thrown his Coke Zero at me had I asked him. Guaranteed.
I should have done it anyway.
One of the best parts of covering the Knights was being asked throughout the season to appear on sports talk radio shows across North America. (Europe and Australia, too!)
And, like the players, I was frequently asked by the host(s) when I knew this team had something special.
My answer: Thanksgiving.
The Knights beat Los Angeles on Nov. 19 and won three nights later at Anaheim, home of the five-time defending Pacific Division champion, to take over first place.
The phrase “We know there’s going to be bumps in the road,” which was repeated in various forms throughout training camp, was noticeably absent from the players’ vocabulary.
From that point on, I put all my plans for late spring on hold.
In late February, I had the flu and was unable to travel to Los Angeles for the Knights’ game against the Kings. Instead, I watched the game on TV with my father, a Kings fan since the days of Butch Goring and Rogie Vachon.
In the first period, Erik Haula scored to give the Knights a 1-0 lead, and Dad instinctively blurted out, “Yes!”
That’s what I’ll take away from this historic first season.
Not the goals. Not Jonathan Marchessault’s locker room chirps or even the time Marc-Andre Fleury told me to, ahem, buzz off.
It’s the image of my father, like so many other Vegas residents, cheering for their new favorite team. The pride and excitement that the Golden Knights instilled in the local community.
Clayton Stoner sure missed out.