June 13, 2024

LAS VEGAS — The day it was announced Las Vegas was getting an NHL team. The way that team became a symbol of a city that was in pain before the Golden Knights even played a game. The big trades that saw them get the stars who have built their win-at-all-costs mentality.

Moments such as these have defined the Vegas Golden Knights. And with Tuesday marking the sixth anniversary of their first game, those events were instrumental when they raised their first Stanley Cup banner before taking a 4-1 win against the Seattle Kraken at T-Mobile Arena.

“It was cool seeing the banner go up,” Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill said. “I hadn’t seen a banner with that much detail before. It was pretty cool to see it go up but we know what we did last year, and we were ready to go tonight.”

Like so many Golden Knights games, the ceremony began with the team leaning into its medieval theme. The videoboard displayed pictures of the team winning the Stanley Cup that were made to look like something from an epic fantasy, complete with narration suitable for a Shakespearean play.

Then came Lee Orchard, who plays the role of the “Golden Knight,” skating onto the ice and donning his golden armor before placing his sword in a stone at center ice.

From there, the arena’s collective attention returned to the videoboard, where fans watched the history of the Golden Knights through video clips. It started with the board of governors meeting when it was announced Las Vegas would get a team, followed by clips of the expansion draft.

The video then went to the numerous memorials that were displayed around Las Vegas from the Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting that occurred Oct. 1, 2017. The Golden Knights honored the victims and first responders before their first home game nine days later. Tuesday’s video featured excerpts from the emotional speech delivered that evening by former Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, who said, “We’ll do anything we can to help you and our city heal.”

The video continued by showing the day the team named Mark Stone captain followed by players the Golden Knights either signed or acquired in a trade, including Jack Eichel. It showed a clip from coach Bruce Cassidy’s introductory news conference and a series of goals from last season.

While the video then started playing highlights from the Stanley Cup playoff run, on-ice crew members rolled out the banner box — a slot machine.

“I had a feeling the three Cups were coming,” Eichel said. “It’s Vegas so it’s to theme. I loved it. It was great.”

After the video ended, the team took the ice, with Stone being the last to join as he hoisted the Stanley Cup over his shoulders while skating around the rink. He then set the Cup on a table next to the slot machine and pulled the lever.

Three Stanley Cup icons were displayed on the three LCD screens, and the banner slowly came out of the box and was raised high enough for the crowd to see.

Once the Golden Knights took a team photo in front of the banner, it was raised to the rafters. The booming speakers of the public address system played “Shot at the Night” by famed Las Vegas natives The Killers as the banner made its way to the rafters.

Many of the Golden Knights looked longingly at the banner, and a few appeared to get emotional before the ceremony ended with a chant of “Go Knights Go” by the sellout crowd.

“We had our ring dinner a few nights ago and went to the Raiders last night,” Eichel said. “There’s a lot of things going on in your life and you’re trying to enjoy what we accomplished but prepare for a season, so, you try to balance both. It’s an amazing experience to watch a banner go up and you want to enjoy every moment. But in the back of your mind, you’re preparing for a game as well.”

How the Golden Knights would celebrate the most significant moment in their history had been surrounded by curiosity. The team’s entertainment staff instantly made T-Mobile Arena one of the most unique venues in the league by living up to the expectations that come with being in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights have developed trademark touches such as Orchard skating around in golden armor, the Golden Belles showgirls team and the Knight Line — the team’s drum line — having one of its members rappel down from the rafters and onto the ice while still drumming.

Andrew Abrams, who is the Golden Knights’ vice president and executive producer for their entertainment team, said meeting those demands was “both hard and easy” when it came to what they would do for the banner-raising ceremony.

“We always try to sort of one-up ourselves, and the expectation is that it can’t be another hockey team doing another banner raising,” Abrams said. “But it was easy, because some of the elements that we chose, we actually had ideas for back in the playoffs before we could even talk about a banner ceremony.”

Tyler Ferraro, who is the Golden Knights’ senior manager of entertainment experience, said they wanted to make the ceremony about the team. Instead of solely tapping into those familiar trademarks, they wished to create what Ferraro described as a love letter from the team to the city.

It’s why they wanted to have items such as the slot machine banner box — something that was kept secret, with only a few select people in the organization knowing about it.

“We wanted to have a few things that when people looked at it, they said, ‘Yeah, that’s Vegas,'” Abrams said.

Reaching that conclusion also meant watching what other teams did in the NHL, along with other leagues, before confirming the direction the Golden Knights wanted to take.

Last year, the Colorado Avalanche had Blink-182 bassist and singer Mark Hoppus lead the crowd in singing “All the Small Things” — the 2000 hit song that eventually morphed into the team’s anthem, with fans continuing to sing well after the song stopped playing over the arena’s public address system.

Abrams said the Golden Knights’ entertainment team thought about different ideas such as possibly bringing in a musical act. But factors such as time restraints led to it keeping the focus on ceremony.

“Because we are such a young team, throughout the last six years, you can pinpoint specific points in our timeline of how this led to our championship,” Ferraro said. “Or how this trade fed into this thing that gave us the Stanley Cup.”

Another element the entertainment team worked with was when owner Bill Foley issued the famed “Cup in Six” edict in which he claimed the club would win a Stanley Cup in six seasons.

“It feels like a really beautiful endcap to our first Golden Knights saga,” Ferraro said. “We’re able to close a chapter on that, literally and figuratively, and we start focusing on the future, but that was a fun creative twist, as well.”

Even though the Golden Knights had months to work on creating what they deemed to be the perfect ceremony, they had a rather limited window to rehearse at T-Mobile Arena. The arena hosted Game 1 of the WNBA Finals between the New York Liberty and the defending champion Las Vegas Aces on Sunday. On Monday, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers played a preseason game, which further heightened the need to make the most out of rehearsals.

Abrams said the first time they rehearsed the show was Oct. 4. The first rehearsal allowed them to see how the show looked in segments, but they didn’t have enough time to see how the whole ceremony would look start to finish.

Two days later, they were able to get back into T-Mobile because of an unforeseen opening in the schedule, which allowed them to rehearse four or five times.

“We walked out of there in a really good spot,” Abrams said. “A two-day rehearsal is not normal, but the important thing is we got as many reps as physically possible.”

Having a nostalgic ceremony also allowed a former Golden Knights player to look back, with Kraken forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare talking about his time with the team. Bellemare, who spoke after morning skate, was one of the original Golden Knights who helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final that they lost to the Washington Capitals.

“You’re kind of proud, first of all, to be able to have the honor to be part of [that first team in franchise history],” Bellemare said. “Second of all, for the people of Vegas, you’re happy for everyone who is able to celebrate that.”

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