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Detailed planning leads to in-arena magic for Golden Knights

Right wing Reilly Smith scored 10 minutes after puck drop Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.

Immediately, Jonny Greco, the Golden Knights’ vice president of entertainment production, and his game-day team sprung into action at T-Mobile Arena. By the time public address announcer Bruce Cusick was ready to say “Scooooring for your Vegas Golden Knights,” they had the highlight video of the goal ready, Smith’s headshot cued up and were prepared to play his celebration video, which features him pretending to sheath his stick like a sword while flames shoot up in a “V” behind him.

The announcement and accompanying videos only took a few seconds, but they whipped the already-hyped crowd into a frenzy. That, in turn, gave Knights players energy.

It’s what Greco and his staff were going for when they mapped the moment out months ago. Meticulous planning goes into every part of the Knights’ in-arena experience, and the 10 full-time members of the entertainment team are still catching up on the sleep they lost in September.

They’ll get a slight break over the next week, as the Knights begin a three-game trip at 4 p.m. Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“This isn’t going to play in a lot of other places, and that’s OK,” Greco said. “It’s not supposed to. But it is supposed to play here, and we’re very, very thankful this crowd supports it and champions it.”

Planning for the Knights’ flaming headshots and celebration videos — which are played during warmups, when the starting lineup is announced and after goals — started when Motion Graphic Artist Trent Bailey had a three-word idea: “Fire on ice.”

So the team called the company Pyrotek Special Effects Inc. to see what it could set up. The Knights ended up making the headshots part of their player media day Sept. 12. Players went station to station to do various off-ice tests, social media promos and more, but in the middle of it all, they had to stop and play with literal fire.

“That was the cool station to go to with all the pyro stuff,” left wing Max Pacioretty said. “Definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Greco’s team needed to get 10 different shots in a 15-minute window at the station. That included things such as players stickhandling and shooting with fire blazing behind them, as well as their celebrations. All while making sure the lighting, fire and player hit their cue on time.

The group ended up liking what they shot so much they packaged it together for the team’s preseason intro video. It was set to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

“We know everything they do makes us look good,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We know at first it’s kind of weird, getting in the fire and everything, but when you see it on the Jumbotron, (you say), ‘Oh, that looks sick now.’”

Then for the team’s regular-season intro video, the logistics went up a notch. Filming took place over six weeks in three locations, including two different states.

The video, which features the team mascot, the Golden Knight, having his sword stolen, owner Bill Foley finding the four thieves in a helicopter and four members of the Knights chasing the posse down on horseback, has references to many genres and time periods. But Greco took team president Kerry Bubolz’s advice: “Try not to make too much sense of it. Just enjoy it.”

“We’re not overthinking this,” Greco said. “We’re like, ‘Is it fun? Yes.’ ‘Will the crowd like it? We hope so.’ ‘Is everyone into it? Yeah, let’s see what we can do.’”

Rehearsals started in August at Foley’s ranch in Montana. Additional filming took place at Nelson Ghost Town in Nevada, and the shots of Knights players donning cowboy hats before beginning their chase were shot at City National Arena.

The players who have been featured include goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, center William Karlsson, left wing William Carrier and defensemen Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland and Nate Schmidt.

The video concludes with one thief, who is wearing a bandana bearing the logo of that night’s opponent, clashing with the Golden Knight, which leads directly to an on-ice battle. The scene was filmed 30 times with 30 different bandanas.

Greco calls it one of the video’s “pop” moments that amp up the crowd. All so when the players skate through a 20-foot tall helmet — affectionately nicknamed Elvis — soon afterward, the energy inside T-Mobile Arena is as crazy as possible.

“We don’t want to mail it in ever,” Greco said. “This city and our fans deserve the best at all times.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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