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Golden Knights help Las Vegas hockey fans heal

Updated October 15, 2017 - 10:07 am

Rich Rodriguez had a ticket for the final night of the Route 91 Harvest festival, but a migraine headache prevented him from attending.

On Saturday, Rodriguez joined his friend Constant Kern on Fremont Street for the NHL Centennial Fan Arena.

It’s all part of the healing process for the Las Vegas residents, who have found an escape in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip through hockey and the Golden Knights.

“It gets you out of the house, gets your mind off stuff,” said Rodriguez, a recent hockey convert. “I’m a little bit strong-headed, so I just wish I could have done more to help more people than myself.”

Kern had an extra ticket to the Golden Knights’ game against San Jose on Oct. 1 and offered it to Rodriguez, who said he was going to the outdoor country music festival instead.

It wasn’t until the next morning that Kern found out Rodriguez wasn’t in attendance when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from his room at Mandalay Bay, killing 58 people and injuring 546.

Kern had his Golden Knights home jersey signed at the Fan Arena by Knights defensemen Colin Miller and Nate Schmidt, while Rodriguez got his goalie mask autographed by the players.

The Fan Arena featured a museum truck, ball hockey rink, virtual reality Zamboni race and the Stanley Cup, which visited University Medical Center on Thursday. A “(Vegas)Strong” sign that visitors signed was added to the exhibit.

“I really truly believe it brought the city together,” Kern said of the Golden Knights’ reaction. “The outpouring of all the Vegas Strong and ‘Go Knights Go,’ and for them to go to all the hospitals, I think that was awesome.”

Hockey also has provided a much-needed respite for the Trudell family during the past two weeks.

Gavyn Trudell, 8, is the flag boy for the UNLV hockey team, leading the Rebels onto the ice at the start of their home games.

As a result, the family is close with Rebels assistant coach Nick Robone, who was shot in the chest at the concert. Robone was released from the hospital Tuesday and honored by the Golden Knights before Friday’s game at T-Mobile Arena.

“They’ve proved that it’s more than just a game,” Andy Trudell said. “The simple fact that they took down the advertising on their home opener to convey a message of hope and recovery says a lot to the organization, and it says a lot to what the people of the city mean to the team.”

The Trudells traveled to Arizona for the Knights’ game Oct. 7, and the trip allowed the family to escape from the tragedy for an evening.

“We kind of were able to push past what went on, the bad stuff that was going on for the four or five days prior to it, let me kind of forget about it,” Becca Trudell said. “It was a perfect little vacation, and being (at the Fan Arena on Friday) night helped, too, with all the hockey.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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