Updated February 22, 2020 - 11:40 pm
There will be more. Somewhere in the Las Vegas Valley, a youngster watched Saturday’s Golden Knights game with dreams of playing in the NHL.
And when it happens, Gage Quinney will serve as inspiration.
Quinney became the first Nevada-born player to appear in the NHL when he made his debut in the Knights’ 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena.
“I didn’t nap today. The heart was really racing,” Quinney said. “By the time the puck dropped, it’s just another hockey game. I think I was able to settle in.
“Obviously it’s pretty exciting to play my first NHL game in my hometown … just to know that Vegas is a hockey town now and I was able to represent them.”
Quinney is the fifth player to make his NHL debut with the Knights this season, joining Jake Bischoff, Cody Glass, Nic Hague and Keegan Kolesar.
Quinney was born in Las Vegas in 1995 when his father, Ken, played for the Thunder of the International Hockey League from 1993 to 1998.
Pittsburgh forward Jason Zucker was raised in Las Vegas but born in Newport Beach, California.
Gage Quinney attended West Career and Technical Academy before he moved to Arizona at age 15 and lived with a billet family while playing for the Junior Coyotes program.
He spent three seasons in the Canadian major junior Western Hockey League and produced 119 points (53 goals, 66 assists) in 182 games with Prince Albert, Kelowna and Kamloops.
“Growing up, people would laugh if you said you played hockey in Vegas,” Quinney said.
After averaging nearly a point per game for Wheeling in the ECHL as a first-year pro, Quinney posted 33 points in 57 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League in 2017-18.
He signed a two-way, two-year contract with his hometown Knights in 2018 and spent last season with Chicago in the AHL.
Quinney had 43 points in 62 games during the regular season and helped the Wolves reach the Calder Cup Final.
“We had a chance with the game tonight to reward someone, and he was the player we thought deserved it,” Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said after Saturday’s morning skate. “Happy for Gage, excited for his family. It’s a neat story with with him being Nevada born, and yet it’s not why this is playing out like it did. He’s here tonight because he’s earned the opportunity.”
Quinney worked hard in the offseason to improve his skating and has been one of the Wolves’ most dependable two-way forwards. He had 14 goals and 32 points in 42 games before he was called up Friday.
Quinney said he was notified of the call-up while the Wolves were in Milwaukee on Friday and didn’t play in Chicago’s 4-1 loss that night. He texted his parents and girlfriend, then drove back to Chicago with Zach Whitecloud before flying to Las Vegas.
“I still don’t know if it’s actually hit me yet,” Quinney said after morning skate. “Landing and seeing the Strip’s lights was a really nice thing to see. I’m just excited to be back and have a chance.”
Quinney was given a solo lap at the start of warmups and received a loud ovation when he was announced with the starting lineup.
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He centered the fourth line and drew two penalties in his 9:09 of ice time.
“It’s really an amazing story so a testament to youth hockey and how it’s exploding across the country,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I know he was excited and I thought he did a great job.”