Years from now, when the next generation of hockey fans in Southern Nevada learn about the history of the Golden Knights, Deryk Engelland’s name will occupy an honored place.
Parents might explain what happened on Oct. 1, 2017, to their kids, how 58 people lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded by a gunman perched in a hotel room just a couple of blocks from T-Mobile Arena.
Then they’ll tell the story of Oct. 10, the night of the Knights’ first home game. And how Engelland quickly established himself as one of the faces of the franchise with his stirring speech promising that the team would do all it could to help the city heal.
“We are Vegas Strong,” he said.
Engelland delivered on the ice, too. Despite turning 36 in April, he had the best season of his NHL career, finishing with five goals, 18 assists and 23 points while averaging 20:17 in ice time.
Not bad for someone who found himself in Las Vegas in 2003 playing in the ECHL as a member of the Las Vegas Wranglers. Back then, he was known more for his tough-guy image trying to chase his NHL dream.
“I think the opportunity, more ice time always helps,” Engelland said of why he played so well. “I think it started the year before in Calgary, playing more with Glen Gulutzan there. Your confidence just goes up.”
The Knights won 51 games in their inaugural year. But Engelland thought they showed signs of being something special right before the calendar flipped to 2018. The Knights registered wins over Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington, considered to be three of the NHL’s elite teams.
“It was probably through Christmas when you actually have some breaks, some time to sit back and go over what we accomplished at that point,” he said of when he realized the Knights were for real. “Probably Christmastime.”
The Knights were a team without a captain. But Engelland was part of the team’s leadership group that included Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, David Perron and Luca Sbisa.
“We did a great job getting guys with a lot of character, a lot of great leadership, some great young kids,” Engelland said. “It’s a bright future ahead of us, I think. Just getting into the community and seeing the city grow around the team, and the team grow with the city. The guys went through everything together in this room and I couldn’t be more happy and more proud of the guys ultimately.”