Local registered nurse Joseph Bruno already loved hockey.
And that was before he was honored by the Golden Knights at the franchise’s first NHL game Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Bruno and his wife, Lela, also a registered nurse, were among the 30 or so first responders to the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip who were introduced with Golden Knights players during a tear-jerking ceremony before Vegas’ game against the Arizona Coyotes.
“I’m so proud of the city,” Joseph Bruno said from the bowels of the arena after the ceremony. “I’m so proud of the amazing response. I’m so proud of the effort my colleagues gave. The effort of everyone.”
Bruno was notified that he would take the ice with the Golden Knights about three days ago and said he was told the team wanted to welcome as many first responders as possible.
All the first responders in attendance were introduced alongside a player before a raucous, sellout crowd eager to celebrate its first professional home game.
They stayed on the playing surface as the Coyotes emerged from their locker room and stood alongside the two teams for a 58-second moment of silence to honor the 58 victims.
The crowd joined in the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the first responders exited the ice and returned to their seats and Lela Bruno was thrilled with the experience.
“It was amazing,” she said.
The Brunos moved to Las Vegas seven years ago for work. Joseph got a job at University Medical Center and Lela at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
Lela said she never believed Las Vegas could become a hockey town. Joseph said Tuesday proves it already is one.
“We’re seeing it tonight,” he said.
The UNLV men’s hockey players also were guests of the Golden Knights. Forward D’Andre John, who is from Toronto and has lived in Las Vegas for two months, said he thinks having professional hockey is going to do wonders for his new town.
“I think it’s unreal bringing hockey,” the 21-year old said. “The atmosphere is crazy. It’s hectic. I would love to be on the ice right now.”
John and teammates Sean Plonski and Riley Williams wore their Rebels practice jerseys and soaked up the pregame fanfare from the concourse before making their way through the arena for the game.
“(The Golden Knights are) doing really well,” John said. “It’s looking good for the city.”
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.