When Gov. Steve Sisolak shut down all non-essential businesses Friday, I think he included hockey in his message.
That had to be a tough call, given his love and affection for the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s been a Medieval Maniac from Day One, going back to Feb. 10, 2015 when the NHL had yet to award Bill Foley a franchise and the season ticket campaign was launched. His daughter Carley currently works for the team as the manager of marketing and community relations.
But yes, the Knights were not granted an exemption. They, like everyone who was deemed non-essential, complied with the governor’s mandate and stayed home.
That doesn’t mean the hockey team Las Vegas loves has stayed dormant through the coronavirus crisis. It may be locked down but not locked out.
Though the franchise has only been around for four years, it is drawing on some of its history for the fan base to relive. Games are being shown on AT&T Sportsnet, the network which televises Golden Knights games. The team is running simulated games of the dates they were scheduled to play at T-Mobile Arena, complete with in-game hosts, announcers and music and all the usual trappings that come with a visit to the place they call “The Fortress.” NHL.TV is showing every VGK game from this season for free, so if you miss Gerard Gallant, you can reacquaint yourself with Turk.
Last week, owner Bill Foley announced that the team was sending $500,000 to the game-day employees, with Marc-Andre Fleury donating $100,000 of that figure, a magnanimous gesture for sure on Fleury’s part. It’s no wonder he is the most beloved player on the roster.
And more good news: general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Saturday that no one in the organization has needed to be tested for COVID-19, that everyone is healthy and is complying with the Stay-at-Home-Nevada edict by the Governor.
“Organizationally, first and foremost, we understand we’re a very small piece of a much bigger situation,” said McCrimmon, who is holed up at his summer cottage on a lake in Manitoba for the time being. “We’re doing our part to help mitigate this virus.”
Sunday, the team announced it had signed defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a two-year contract extension. Whitecloud has acquitted himself nicely in the 16 games he has played with the Knights.
McCrimmon is staying busy. Not only is there the resumption of the NHL season to prepare for, there’s the future as well. The 2020 NHL Draft will be June 26-27 in Montreal and the Knights currently have five picks, including their first rounder as well as two third-round picks (their own and New Jersey’s). They have been reviewing their scouting reports on hundreds of players and are using the time they normally would spend watching junior hockey playoffs and college tournaments to get the data they already have to make sure they’ll be set once the draft is held.
The NHL is considering conducting the draft via video teleconferencing rather than have thousands gather at the Bell Centre as it normally would. McCrimmon said whatever decision the league makes regarding the draft, the Knights will be ready.
“Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared,” McCrimmon said. “I like end-of-the-year hockey to final examinations. It’s like 20 percent, 25 percent of your mark. But it’s not the entire grade. All the other work you’ve put in counts.
“I do know we’ll be as prepared as we can possibly be.