There are myriad reasons the first regular-season home game in Golden Knights history, played Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena before a sellout crowd torn between reflection and acclamation, still will be considered monumental years from now.
It was an evening wrought with emotion that showed Las Vegas could mourn one minute and exalt the next.
It was OK to cry when the names of the 58 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victims were superimposed on the ice just inside the blue line. And it was OK to go crazy when the Knights’ Tomas Nosek lit the red lamp just 2 minutes, 31 seconds into the team’s home ice baptism.
Boy, was it ever.
It was VegasStrong. With a double hashtag.
One sensed it in the expensive seats in Section 5 behind the Knights’ bench. In Section 214 way up top behind the net in the nosebleed mezzanine. In the Goose Island Lounge, and in the standing room area in the moats flanking the Knights’ castle under the NHL team banners and the eclectic Las Vegas skyline backdrop mural.
One also sensed it in Suite 11 overlooking center ice, where the Maloof siblings were watching history being made as silent partners of Knights majority owner Bill Foley. Which must have been difficult because the Maloofs are known for being the most outgoing and boisterous of partners.
The Maloof siblings — in chronological order, brothers Joe and Gavin, sister Adrienne, brothers George and Phil, originally of Albuquerque, New Mexico, now mainly of Las Vegas — were back as principals of a major league sports team, albeit minority principals.
They weren’t the major story on this opening night. But they never planned to be, even when the circumstances were less extenuating.
Foley’s right-hand men
Like the checking line of a hockey team, the family Maloof played an important if understated role in bringing the Knights to Las Vegas. It was good to see them back, though the good people of Sacramento, California, may not share this opinion.
The Maloofs owned the NBA’s Kings from 1998 until 2013. For a time, which roughly coincided with when the Kings were winning, they were popular. Then when the Kings started losing and the Maloofs couldn’t get a deal on a new arena and mentioned the ‘R’ word — relocation — they no longer were popular.
They sold the Kings to businessman Vivek Ranadive in 2013.
Now they are minority owners of the Golden Knights, though you would hardly know it.
The Maloof siblings own 15 percent of the Knights; Bill Foley owns the other 85 percent. Neither the majority nor minority owners come from a hockey background. But when the Maloofs briefly owned the NBA’s Houston Rockets before they bought the Kings, Gary Bettman was part of the NBA’s legal team.
So the puck stopped there.
As NHL commissioner, Bettman suggested the Maloofs contact Foley when they quietly were trying to get back into major league sports and Foley not-so-quietly was trying to bring hockey to Las Vegas.
“We’re excited as a family. It’s been a long time coming,” Gavin Maloof said.
Ordinary Joes and Gavins
Dogs were barking when we spoke on the telephone Sunday, and the second-eldest Maloof brother said to hold on while he found a quiet spot. This is what endears a lot of people who don’t live in Sacramento to the brothers Maloof.
They’re rich, but there is no pretension.
With most one-percenters, one has to navigate a phalanx of assistants to set up an interview. With the Maloofs, you get a cell number and barking dogs. They seem as real and genuine as the guy next door.
Gavin Maloof spoke of the shootings and how he hoped the Knights coming to fruition at this dark hour could “give the city hope.” George Maloof said he knew two of those who had been shot, one of whom remains in intensive care.
“I think the team can be a healing factor for a lot of people in the community — especially now that we’re 2-0,” Gavin Maloof said in Suite 11 before referee Francois St. Laurent dropped the puck for the home opener after one of the smallest shooting survivors had done the same to even louder cheers.
Now the Knights are 3-0. It was 4-1 VGK late in the first period when my cellphone lit up like the red light behind the Arizona goalies.
Gavin Maloof wanted to thank a couple of reporters for stopping by. When I texted back to ask where the Knights were going to hang the championship banner, he responded almost immediately with a statement that summed things up on and off the ice,
“Well, (still) a long way to go.”
Meet the Maloofs
The Maloof siblings have joined majority Golden Knights owner Bill Foley in bringing major league sports to Las Vegas as minority stakeholders after having owned the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings. The Maloof lineup, in chronological order:
— Joe Maloof, born Nov. 15, 1955
— Gavin Maloof, born Oct. 9, 1956
— Adrienne Maloof, born Sept. 1, 1961
— George Maloof Jr., born Sept. 2, 1964
— Phil Maloof, born May 16, 1967