March 31, 2018 - 8:49 pm
Updated April 1, 2018 - 12:54 am
On a night when the Golden Knights locked up the Pacific Division title and secured a championship banner, the team unveiled a banner of its own before its 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights hung a black-and-gold banner honoring the 58 victims of the Oct. 1 Strip shooting. The “Vegas Strong” banner, which has 58 stars — the number of people killed on that night — and the name of each victim, was hoisted to the rafters after a video tribute.
The team also announced that it is retiring the number 58.
“It was very emotional,” said center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the ceremony, which was planned for a month. “It reminded me a lot of the (Oct. 10) home opener. Very powerful.”
Forward Alex Tuch, who was having dinner with his teammates the night of the shootings, said it brought back a flood of memories.
“I’ll never forget that night,” he said. “I thought it was a beautiful ceremony, and I think we drew inspiration from it.”
Players from both teams stood on their blue lines during the ceremony. Knights majority owner and chairman Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee also were on the ice, along with the family of shooting victim Neysa Tonks, as the banner was raised.
“It just really shows the community how dedicated we are and how involved the team is in the community,” Foley told NHL.com. “The 58 stars are going to be there forever. You can see there were people crying in the stands, a few tears in my eyes as that banner got raised.
“It makes me feel great that our team is involved and is helping out in any way it can. Because our fans are so dedicated to this team, they’re so into this team. And we want to give back to them. That was our goal, to make hockey in the desert a reality, and it is. We’ve been fortunate that our team has been playing great. The guys have been playing well together, but the fans have been behind us the whole way.”
Coach Gerard Gallant said he was proud of the way his team played on an emotional night.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “(Saturday) reminded me a lot of the first home game. We were out there playing hard and competing hard. Our first game was an unbelievable game and then (Saturday) was the same way.”
Defenseman Nate Schmidt said before the game there is a connection between the team and the city.
“Put away anything we did on the ice,” he said. “I thought our guys did a great job this year in getting out in the community and weaving ourselves into the fabric of this community and being a part of it from Day One, even before things happened.
“But we’re hoping we can give them a little bit more here as the year goes on. And, yeah, over the course of the year there were times you look back at that moment and it just reminds you of the things we have been through as a group, as a city and as a team.”