Las Vegas unites over hockey team after tragedy

LAS VEGAS — It seems everywhere you look in Las Vegas this week, there are signs, banners and flags waving in support of the city’s hockey team.

And while it might drive visiting Caps fans a little nuts, many who call Vegas home see it as a sign of rebirth.

It was Oct. 1, 2017, that a gunman took aim at a concert festival from a high-rise hotel. When it was finally over, he had claimed the lives of 58 people and injured scores of others.

Not surprisingly, a dark cloud settled over Las Vegas, and as people who call it home wondered if that cloud would ever lift, they got at least a partial answer from the city’s hockey team, the Golden Knights.

“It’s been tremendous, absolutely tremendous,” Vegas resident Brian Wolfe, who knew one of the victims, told me at T-Mobile Arena. “We all mourned their deaths, and all the injured, and the team stepped up and went to all the blood drives and they had public service commercials, and we all fell in love with the team.”

“We all supported them as much as they supported us,” he added.

Fellow Las Vegan and University of Maryland grad Rachel Engster echoed those sentiments.

Las Vegan resident Rachel Engster said the city's hockey team helps people of all backgrounds, races, nationalities and beliefs come together, calling it "a center of the community." (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)
Las Vegan resident Rachel Engster said the city’s hockey team helps people of all backgrounds, races, nationalities and beliefs come together, calling it “a center of the community.” (WTOP/Brennan Haselton) (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, center, of Sweden, celebrates his goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, left, during first period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Harry How/Pool via AP)
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, center, of Sweden, celebrates his goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, left, during first period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Harry How/Pool via AP) (AP/Harry How)
Ryan Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves, left, celebrates his goal with left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, of France, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Braden Holtby, Tomas Nosek,
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, left, is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek, of the Czech Republic, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, left, of Russia, celebrates a goal by right wing Tom Wilson, right, along with defenseman Dmitry Orlov, of Russia, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP/John Locher)
Members of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal by Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek, of the Czech Republic, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Members of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal by Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek, of the Czech Republic, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP/John Locher)
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Las Vegan resident Rachel Engster said the city's hockey team helps people of all backgrounds, races, nationalities and beliefs come together, calling it "a center of the community." (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, center, of Sweden, celebrates his goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, left, during first period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Harry How/Pool via AP)
Ryan Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Braden Holtby, Tomas Nosek,
Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov
Members of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal by Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek, of the Czech Republic, during the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“You can feel the family that’s here,” she said while standing in a lower-level concourse at the arena. “The team did a great job, not only honoring the first responders and continuing to do that, but also the families themselves, retiring the number 58 jersey. It’s really served as a center of healing for the community.”

And the love Las Vegas fans have returned to the team shows no sign of weakening.

“It’s a place you can come and feel safe together and also feel like you’re part of the same team,” Engster said.


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