LAS VEGAS (AP) — With the city reeling from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland delivered an emotional 58-second speech last October that continues to echo through Las Vegas today.
Engelland’s address came days after the Oct. 1 massacre during a pregame ceremony honoring victims and first responders. It ended with the reassurances: ”We’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas strong.”
As the one-year anniversary of the massacre on the Las Vegas Strip that left 58 dead approaches, Vegas’ beloved NHL team remains very much a part of the healing process, true to Engelland’s words.
”Anything like that happens, you definitely want to keep helping the process of the healing,” Engelland said following a recent preseason game as the Knights prepared for their second season. ”I think last year was a good stepping stone and I think we can still do more this year.”
The Golden Knights, who became a rallying point for many residents after the shooting, will make their way around town Monday, with several players and team personnel visiting command and dispatch centers for police and other first responders and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a blood drive.
”Being from here, you want to do as much as you can for the community you call home,” Engelland said. ”I think every guy in this room wants to do what they can for Las Vegas. A lot of guys are going to be calling this home for a long time. We got a lot of great leaders in here that step up and do a lot of good things. We just try to help each other out and do whatever we can for the community.”
Lifelong Vegas resident Tina Cartwright, who was at the outdoor concert when the gunman opened fire from a room in the Mandalay Bay casino-resort, said it took a long time for her to attend a crowded event after the shooting, during which she remembers running her life. It was a Golden Knights game that brought her back to enjoying her social life.
”They gave me hope, because I didn’t want to go out in crowds and put myself in that position where I wasn’t close to an exit,” said Cartwright, 47. ”I didn’t want to go out right away, so they were an immediate part of the healing process. I have friends who still won’t go to concerts or big gatherings, and I think the longer you wait it can be detrimental. They just gave us something to look forward to in times that were dark.”
Knights newcomer Max Pacioretty was with the Montreal Canadiens last season but said he remembers the shooting vividly. He said it was tough to watch on television. But he said watching the Knights from afar as they helped with the recovery process helped him see how special the team had become to the community.
They had become much more than the town’s first major sports franchise, and much more than a team embarking on an inaugural campaign that would end in the Stanley Cup Final.
”It’s something I feel that this community will never forget, and it’s a big reason why there’s such good chemistry between the fans and the city and this team,” Pacioretty said. ”I feel as if people didn’t really know what to expect, what type of people and human beings hockey players are in a general spectrum. But I think they learned real quick. As soon as they knew that they were going to have to help this community overcome what they were going through, you saw them step up to the occasion right away.”
During each home game last season, the Golden Knights recognized the Vegas Strong Hero of the Game, a first responder or citizen who risked his or her own life during the shooting to aid others. Engelland would talk to those heroes after the games.
In September, Engelland and his family announced the Vegas Born Heroes Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to publicly recognize and reward charities and community members who consistently and selflessly help others to benefit the city.
”It’s been an honor to honor those people who sacrificed their lives or made it out of there,” Engelland said. ”We still talk to a lot of them here and there. We wanted to start our foundation and kind of branch a little bit away from that but not completely. Those first responders, we wanted to grow it and make it the heroes around Las Vegas that do the little things that might go unnoticed.”
Unnoticed, until now.