Class was in session. Roll wasn’t called, but judging from the attire of the undergrads, Fleury and Neal and Vegas Strong were present and accounted for.
Misha Donskov, the Golden Knights’ director of hockey operations, brought the player development pyramid and a PowerPoint clicker.
Murray Craven, senior vice president, brought 17 seasons of NHL expertise as a player and his left-handed hockey stick, in case there were any right-handed center icemen in the classroom.
Neophyte Golden Knights fans brought a yen for hockey knowledge. None, as far as I could tell, brought an apple or a six-pack of Molson Golden for the teachers.
This was the second installment of Vegas Golden Knights University at T-Mobile Arena. Tuition costs $495 for five sessions, and one also gets to skate on Knights home ice before class begins. Which is pretty cool, unless one has weak ankles.
No, you don’t get to drive the Zamboni. But afterward there are free chicken Parmesan and cheese sliders, and you get to ask Muzzy Craven questions.
Best of all, you get to stick around and watch the Golden Knights give a live demonstration of what you have just learned. A game ticket is included in the tuition fee.
Learn the lingo
“We’re trying to make the game more enjoyable for the people who come to our classes that they can appreciate whether they are in T-Mobile Arena or watching on TV,” said Craven, who scored 266 goals in 1,071 NHL games. “Things like the lingo of the announcers on TV. People in this room want to understand.”
So the people in the room know now what playing the “off wing” means (a right-handed shooter playing on the left wing, and vice versa), and where the “house” or “home plate” is on the ice (the area in front of the net “between the dots” where most goals are scored, aka “the slot,” aka “good ice”).
They did not learn what a “two-hander” is. There are three sessions to go. There still is time.
The curriculum before Sunday’s game against Arizona was about Creating Offense. Last month it was an Introduction to Hockey. Sessions 3, 4 and 5 will focus on Defensive Strategy, Special Teams and a Day in the Life of a Coach. (They didn’t specify which one. A wiseguy in back was hoping for Punch Imlach.)
Craven was asked if there would be a sixth session that covered the two-handed slash and other tactics made famous by the Broad Street Bullies, which is what the Philadelphia Flyers were called before he joined them in 1984. He said no, but that the present day Flyers could benefit from a Session 6, because they are 8-11-7 and in last place in the Metropolitan Division.
The session on creating offense lasted 90 minutes, 30 more than scheduled. Nobody nodded off. It wasn’t like being lectured on the Louisiana Purchase during American History 101. These students paid rapt attention, giving credence to the notion they were becoming hockey fans for life, as well as potential Golden Knights season-ticket holders.
“That’s the idea,” Craven said about the first part of the equation. The second went without saying.
It was an intimate setting during which the students of the game were encouraged to ask questions. Some took notes. A few went up to Craven afterward for 1-on-1 time. He was happy to oblige, especially if you were a right-handed center. Craven explained that a left wing who fashions himself a goal scorer prefers to play with a right-handed center, because it’s more natural for a right-handed shooter to pass the puck left than it is right.
It was the monitor in the back of the classroom who asked about Medicine Hat.
He had done his homework. He had read that Medicine Hat was the English interpretation of a Blackfoot word for the headdress worn by medicine men when the herds that roamed the Canadian prairie consisted of buffalo, not forecheckers with hard noses and sharp elbows.
Murray Craven said that is one theory about how his hometown got its name. There are others he said with a telltale snicker. He didn’t expound.
I guess I’ll just have to sign up for Session 7.