Updated September 30, 2023 - 12:48 pm
William Karlsson still hasn’t watched it.
He’s not sure he ever will.
“Does anyone ever like to see themselves talk, really?” Karlsson said.
He did wake up to several messages on his phone the morning after his remarks in front of T-Mobile Arena. But he was able to avoid comments for a little bit when he took a trip to his native Sweden in the summer.
He said he didn’t even have anyone quote his speech to him during his Stanley Cup party in August.
His teammates have been kind to him since he returned to Las Vegas. Fans have worn shirts with quotes from the speech to training camp practices at City National Arena, but center Jack Eichel said there hasn’t been much ribbing in the locker room.
The Knights know they’re not at that parade in the first place without everything Karlsson has done for them.
“I think everyone thought it was pretty funny,” Eichel said. “No need to give him any grief.”
Karlsson, one of six original Knights who hoisted the Cup, wouldn’t have been many people’s pick for the most memorable speech of the celebration.
The 30-year-old center tends to be soft spoken in public. His answers in interviews often aren’t lengthy. Coach Bruce Cassidy compared Karlsson to goaltender Adin Hill in terms of low-key personalities who are “not this overtly chomping on nails guy” around the rink.
Just don’t mistake that calm exterior for a lack of competitiveness. Or personality.
“He’s a guy that likes to have fun,” defenseman Shea Theodore said.
Karlsson’s play has been more than good enough to do the talking for most of his Knights tenure anyway.
He still holds the franchise record for most goals scored in a season with 43. During last season’s playoff run, he found the back of the net 11 times in 22 games while playing exceptional defense against some of the NHL’s best forwards.
He then let loose after the Knights won it all. The team paraded down the Strip in buses June 17, four days after clinching its championship, then went to a rally in front of T-Mobile Arena. Karlsson stumbled as soon as the Knights arrived on stage. He lost his shirt soon afterward.
It didn’t take long for Karlsson to grab a microphone and deliver an impassioned monologue about longtime linemate Jonathan Marchessault, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for playoff MVP, and the team’s fans.
“OK,” Karlsson said. “You guys can hear me? Yeah, you hear me? So, this guy. This effing guy. Yeah, I know, I know. So, he was here day one. Yeah. And I know you (the fans) have been here day (expletive) one. You guys are so amazing. We played Arizona in the first game, and we beat the (expletive) out of them. And I had no points. No points.
“But that’s OK. Because that year one I was pretty (expletive) great. But you guys were greater. And we’ve been up and down on this journey to the Cup.
“No, no, no, no. Listen to me. We’ve been waiting for six long years for this guy to be M.V.P. Jonathan Marchessault!”
The fans roared several times during the speech even as Knights TV color analyst Shane Hnidy and Kim Frank, the VGK Foundation president of community relations and player initiatives, tried to cut Karlsson off. He was later carried off the stage by teammate William Carrier as Marchessault addressed the crowd, but rallied to return when the team started dancing to locker room staples like “Never Going Home” by Kungs, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA and “Hold the Line” by Toto.
His teammates made sure to look out for him throughout the night. Right wing Keegan Kolesar grabbed onto Karlsson at one point when he was dancing by the edge of the stage to make sure he didn’t fall.
Kolesar said fans even came up to him in the grocery store in the offseason to thank him for ensuring Karlsson’s safety.
“He was having a wild time on that stage, so I wanted to keep the good times going for the public for him,” Kolesar said. “If he were to fall off that stage, I think it would have ruined everything for us.”
The Knights can only hope they see Karlsson that revved up again.
They didn’t tease him for the way he celebrated the first time they won it all. If they go the distance a second time, they’ll happily hand the microphone over to him for an encore.
“We’ve done it before,” Karlsson said. “I think we can do it again. That’s what we want to do. It’s just up to us to deliver.”