Vegas Golden Knights fans know the drill. First comes the countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7… Then Mark Shunock, inner arena announcer for the team, says the magic words: “Live from Las Vegas … It’s Knight time!”
High octane? That’s just icing on the playoff cake for Shunock, who laughs when asked if he ever loses his voice after a game. “I’m the guy who used to belt those ’80s songs in ‘Rock of Ages,’ ’’ he said of the gig that brought him to Vegas. “I do come home, collapse on the couch with my dogs and shut off my voice after a game.”
The native of Canada is also known for his life outside the arena. He founded and hosts “Mondays Dark” at The Space just west of the Strip, where entertainers let loose and have fun, with the proceeds helping local charities. Shunock will also host the Keep Memory Alive gala, which benefits the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, this month.
Review-Journal: How do you like to spend a non-hockey Sunday?
Mark Shunock: I’m at home with my wife and dogs. I work so much that I’ve learned how to cherish the time when both my wife and I can keep our phones in the office and just be. A perfect Sunday is a great brunch and hanging out in the backyard. We have a new Doberman pinscher puppy and a tiny Chihuahua/Jack Russell. They’re both rescues and new. The little one is in charge at our house.
Who came up with the slogan, “It’s Knight time?” People lose their minds when you say/yell it.
I can kind of take credit for it. I was standing by my boss, the vice president of entertainment for the Knights, and said, “Johnny, it’s Knight time.” From that moment on, it stayed. It was only natural to say it after the countdown. I’ve had some cool lines in songs in the past, but having 18,000 people screaming a line with you cannot be beat.
Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup playoff feels …
Pretty incredible. No one would have anticipated us making it to the playoffs. It’s mind-blowing.
What part do you think the team had in bringing Vegas together after the Oct. 1 tragedy?
The team came around at the time the city needed them. I’ve said this before, but I think it could have been a water polo team. It didn’t matter. We needed something and the Golden Knights have shown us the power in bringing a community together. The players know they’re not only playing for themselves, but for the people.
You have a hockey background. Tell me about it.
I’m from Canada. I was a third-string goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League. I’m a byproduct of the sport because my father was always involved in Canadian hockey.
How did the announcer job happen?
I’ve been involved since Bill Foley announced that Vegas wanted a hockey team. In those early days, Foley put together the Founding 50 — people who were tasked to help spread the word within the community. I didn’t do nearly as much as some of the others. I was just thrilled to be part of it. Then once the hiring process started, I made sure that I stayed in the loop. One of the original marketing directors was from the Wynn. I had been hired by the Wynn as a creative director. One day I heard, “Hey, we hear you have a hockey background. You’re creative. Come pitch us some ideas.” I wasn’t looking for the job. But I did go in and say, “Here are some ideas from a kid who has been around hockey his entire life.” I had hosted “Magic Mike” and did “Mondays Dark.” One day, I was asked, “Do you want to be our inner arena announcer?” It was a natural fit.
How physical is the gig? You announce with DJ “Big D” and both of you are all over the arena.
It’s a tough gig. We’re running all over the T-Mobile during games and bouncing all over the place. Our chemistry has come a long way during the 41 home games this season and we get along really well. It’s a treat to go to work. We love it. We walk into the arena pinching ourselves.
How do you ramp up to get to that “Vegas, get on your feet” mindset at each game?
It’s the players who give me the energy. It doesn’t require much for me to get excited, but seeing the players just does it. I watch them warming up and I’m feeling it. We also have such an incredible music team. They get that place pumping. The energy of the games is pretty contagious, plus you feel the vibe from the fans.
What does this playoff season mean for the Golden Knights?
We don’t have to convince anyone anymore. Guys are going to want to play here. That’s a huge win.
Let’s talk about your early career. You were a theater guy.
At 19, I came to New York City to study theater and work. I stayed a decade and then did theater in L.A. and worked. I did a tour with “The Lion King,” and there was a chance I’d come do “Lion King” at Mandalay Bay, but it never happened. I went back to L.A. for a period of time until I was asked in my 30s to do “Rock of Ages” in Vegas. Here I am for the last five years. My wife (Cheryl Daro)and I love it here. Most of all, we love supporting the community.
You’re really making a big impact with “Mondays Dark.”
“Mondays Dark” has taken over life for both me and my wife. I look at it as doing a party where we give $10,000 to a local charity. It’s really taken off and we have a waiting list of local organizations that want to partner with us now. Basically, it’s a 90-minute variety show that I host. We invite all the top entertainment in Vegas to perform at The Space. You never know who will show up. I’m proud that “Mondays Dark” has become its own thing in this city.
Why is giving back to the community so important to you?
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My parents are the most loving and giving people on Earth and that’s what they taught their five children.
Is there a certain moment lately that touched your heart?
A local organization called Project 150 helps homeless high school students. One of the things I didn’t realize is that Vegas has one of the highest levels of homeless kids. Beyond money, I asked them, “What else do you guys need?” I heard, “The biggest thing we need is socks and underwear.” Not only did we donate $10,000, but we asked everyone coming to the event to bring a package of socks and underwear. We got cases of socks and underwear.
You’re also about to host the Keep Memory Alive gala.
To walk out on that stage in front of Vegas’ biggest supporters of charities is like my Oscars.
Any playoff predictions? Is there a big silver cup in our future?
(Laughs) I think we’re going to do well. If we win the first series, I think we’re going to do very well.