Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Sense of Community

In 2015, the rumor mill around Las Vegas and the National Hockey League started to buzz.  Bill Foley, a billionaire businessman, was interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Las Vegas.  Over the course of several months, Foley worked with a dedicated team to convince Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL that hockey in the desert would work if given the chance.  On June 22, 2016, his hard work putting together a season ticket drive and paying a $500 million expansion fee came to reality when the NHL granted Las Vegas it's first professional sports franchise (Las Vegas has had plenty of minor league teams, but never a major level team).

I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan, and while I will always love them,
I am a Golden Knight now! Image courtesy of nhl.com
From that moment, the city began to buzz.  Once the team was officially called the Vegas Golden Knights and logos were unveiled, merchandise began to fly off the shelves in the form of t-shirts, car decals, magnets, and sweaters (jerseys for the layman hockey fan).  The expansion draft built a team from scratch, and the players came to Las Vegas to find a home, not just a quick vacation during the offseason.  Everything was set for an exciting beginning for a brand new franchise in September 2017, with training camp and preseason games at T-Mobile Arena.  Then the unthinkable, the horrific, the gut-wrenching, the saddening happened: 1 October.

Image result for golden knights vegas strong
T-shirt logo featuring the Las Vegas Strip,
the Knights shoulder patch logo, and Vegas
Strong, two words that united a city and a
team during tragedy Image courtesy
of www.fanatics.com
1 October is a moment for Las Vegans and many beyond that will always remember.  Various events throughout history have had the same effect.  If one was alive for these events, they can most likely remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of or witnessed an event like this.  Events like Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Challenger explosion, September 11 all come to mind.  For those that live in Las Vegas, 1 October is very similar.  I'll never forget waking up for work shortly after 5:30 am, making a cup of coffee and turning on the news to see the events that had happened hours earlier after I had gone to bed.  I'll never forget calling into work to make sure that my friends were alright and to do whatever what was needed of me to help.  I'll never forget the 8-hour wait in a hotel conference room to donate blood and the dozens of others that had done the same.  

The Golden Knights home opener was a few days later on Tuesday, October 10, against the Arizona Coyotes.  Anticipation for the day was already strong because of the sheer excitement of having a professional team.  An afterthought to 1 October, but the Knights had also won their first two regular-season games over the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.  Because the Knights had already done so much to weave into the community, everybody was wondering how they would address the events and aftermath of 1 October.  From the introduction of each player accompanied by a first responder, to the 58 seconds of silence to honor the 58 that lost their lives on 1 October, to Derek Engelland's powerful pregame speech to the world prior to the puck drop, the Golden Knights couldn't have done a better job of honoring the departed, the first responders, the city, and helping to bring a community closer in the wake of tragedy.  You have to see it to fully understand the significance.




As the Golden Knights have embarked on their unbelievable first season (NOBODY predicted this!), they have taken this city by storm.  Everywhere you go, you see people wearing Knights gear, cars are adorned with decals and stickers, bars and restaurants all over the city have viewing parties for every game, and my personal favorite, a hearty "Go Knights Go" and a fist bump or high five whenever you see a fellow fan.

Clayton Stoner, a Golden Knights defenseman,
assisting at the training for PE teachers
So if you are still reading and have read previous posts, you're probably wondering, "How does this apply to the usual topic of education?"  The Vegas Golden Knights have done a fantastic job of getting involved with the community, especially with the schools of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson.  In order to grow the game of hockey in Southern Nevada, the Golden Knights partnered with several businesses and the Clark County School District to donate street hockey equipment to middle schools and provide opportunities at learn to skate and learn to play hockey programs at the city's three public skating rinks (5 sheets of ice total).  As a PE teacher, I was invited to participate in the donation program by simply attending a training hosted by the Knights public relations team.  In return for my time, my students are going to receive brand new sticks, nets, balls, and other hockey equipment.  In addition, students will also get Hockey 101 handbooks to explain the rules and play of hockey, coupled with lesson plans provided to me to help introduce hockey to my students.

This is Corey, you'll see him at Knights games 
as part of the pep squad dressed as a Knight,
the mustache abides!
I cannot thank the Vegas Golden Knights enough for what they have done for our city and the programs that they are putting together to help the students of Southern Nevada.  And in another stroke of pure class by the organization that deserves thanks, the team honored the victims of 1 October even further prior to their final regular season home game by retiring the number 58 and hoisting a banner with not just the number 58, but the names of each victim.  I also cannot emphasize enough the importance of community with schools.  A school that does not have relationships with the families, businesses, etc. surrounding them is not going to be nearly as successful as they could be.  Building those relationships will only guide students toward success long after graduation.

If you are reading this blog, you are most likely an educator like me.  I hope that you work in a community that has strong ties between the schools and all stakeholders.  Continue to work each day doing what is best for kids and build those community relationships that will pay dividends for the future of our students.

Until next time...