LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — How does a city heal after an inexplicable tragedy?
Sometimes, through sports.
Five days after the 1 October shooting, the Vegas Golden Knights played their first game in franchise history and became the rallying point for a community looking to heal.
On October 10, 2017, the Golden Knights took the ice for the first regular season home game in franchise history.
Before puck drop, defenseman Deryk Engelland delivered a heartfelt speech to the hometown crowd, solidifying the bond between team and community.
"I was nervous. The team came to me and brought it up and I’m not the best public speaker or anything like that, so I was a little nervous at first," said Engelland, recalling how his speech came together, two years later.
"I went home and talked to my wife about it and she thought it was a great idea, too. The team kind of helped us put something together and then she made the final copy so I could hopefully remember most of it and hit most of the points we wanted to hit. I didn’t think it was going to have the effect that it did, but just to hear people, how much it brought them together and gelling them with the team, it has been amazing. It’s definitely going to go down as one of, if not the most proud moment of my hockey career and it had nothing to do with hockey."
Now, two years after the tragedy and Engelland's speech, the team is still delivering on its promise to help the city heal.
Tuesday, the team hosted a private practice for first responders, Mandalay Bay employees, and hospital staffers who were directly affected by the 1 October massacre.
"I think the first responders, the people of the hospitals, everyone, they put their life on the line every day, dangerous situations. If we can have them at a practice and honor them and just get to know some of them, hang out, and talk to them, it’s a huge honor for us in this room just to hang out with those guys," said Engelland.
"I get that almost every couple of days, somebody coming up to me and saying thank you for everything you do in the community. But, it’s not us. It’s those guys in the stands that are doing everything in the community," said Ryan Reaves, a forward for the team.
"They’re really the heroes and honestly, it’s a tough job. I know, for my part, I’m not even half of those people. The way they give their time, they give everything up to be there at that time especially, and they're the real heroes," said forward Jonathan Marchessault, describing the first responders who worked during the 1 October shooting.
After practice, the players met their guests over a meal, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
"It’s great. I know our players are going up there now to have lunch with them and all that and interact with the people. So, it’s a real tough day, but I think we try and turn it into a positive as much as we can," said Golden Knights head coach, Gerard Gallant, immediately after practice.
"The perseverance of the community itself, from that evening up until today, and the team itself, the Golden Knights, have been something the entire southern Nevada, really as a whole, has rallied around," said Ralph King, a fire captain with the Clark County Fire Department.
Survivors and first responders say these kinds of events are important so people will never forget all the lives that were affected forever.
"It really seems like the community rallied around them [Golden Knights] and it seems like they’ve done a lot for the community. And to have this for the people who were directly impacted responding, that’s great that they don’t forget," said Jesse Gomez, a Clark County firefighter who helped save lives while attending the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Players say it also reminds everyone how close the Las Vegas community has grown since 1 October.
"I think everyone, every year, is going to honor it somehow and someway and I don’t think it ever should be forgotten. It was a terrible tragedy that has really brought the city together on a much stronger base than it was," said Engelland.