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Saturday, 28 October 2017 04:46

Eakin is a Good Knight

Written by  Brad Brown
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Cody Eakin's first significant memory of playing hockey in greater Las Vegas was a sweet one, one-timing a cross-slot feed from David Perron past L.A. Kings goalie Jack Campbell on Sept. 26 for the first-ever NHL goal (albeit a preseason one) at T-Mobile Arena.


His next one, no doubt, he'd like to forget.
Five nights later, the former Swift Current Broncos captain and some of his new Vegas Golden Knights teammates were sitting down for supper at the Cosmopolitan hotel, next door to their home rink. They'd just wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And then the proverbial poop hit the fan. Two kilometres south, from his hotel room at Mandalay Bay, terrorist Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd at a country music festival, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 550 others.
"We all ended up getting put on lockdown inside the hotel so we were there until the wee hours of the morning," Eakin said in a recent interview with the Prairie Post.
Now the who, what, where, when and why of the healing after such an unspeakable tragedy will be different for each and every victim, victim's family and resident of the city.
The Golden Knights also knew that some would seek therapy in the form of entertainment. Eakin recalled Vegas players visiting hospitals and blood banks in the days after the shooting. Head coach Gerard Gallant and general manager George McPhee both spoke of their players taking the initiative in many of those instances.
The team followed up by undertaking a complete overhaul of the pre-game ceremony before the Knights' Oct. 10 home opener.
That ceremony included one first responder joining each player during their individual introductions, 58 seconds of silence (one for each person killed in the shooting), and a speech from Golden Knights defenceman and long-time Vegas resident Derek Engylland.
Then the Golden Knights did their fans one better by setting an NHL expansion team record with their third straight win to open the season, beating Arizona 5-2. (For what it's worth, Eakin was held pointless in just over 16 minutes of ice time but did win 19 of his 28 faceoffs and manage one shot on goal.)
"It was emotional," said Eakin. "The speeches and the 58 seconds of silence was emotional. But it was kind of motivating too."
It seems doubtful, but if that was the only thing motivating the Knights through their first couple weeks, the rest of the NHL will want to stand up and take notice sooner than later.
Since then, all Vegas has done is win two of three games to improve to 5-1-0, and sit third among the entire league in winning percentage (entering this past Saturday night) behind only New Jersey and Toronto.
"Some people are just looking for something to rally around and we obviously did something special ... by winning our first three games and the first one on home ice," said Eakin. "Hopefully we can continue on the track we're on right now and kind of help the city heal through sport."
For his part, Eakin had three assists in six games ahead of Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues.
With the Golden Knights on pace to shatter the NHL's single-season wins record by a first-year team, is it the coaching? The goaltending tandem of Marc-Andre Fleurand Malcolm Subban? A bunch of young guys with a chip on their shoulder after being cast aside? James Neal (he of six goals in the team's first six games) and James Neal alone?
"I think everyone's having fun," said Eakin, who like most of his teammates is living in the affluent suburb of Summerlin, about a half hour's drive northwest of the team's home arena. (The flip side is that it's also just a few minutes from both their practice arena and the Red Rocks Canyon recreation area.)
"And it's all those points you made. Everything's rolling right now ... it's a long season but things start falling into place and it's our job just to kind of show up, work hard, be crisp, be making the right plays and not being selfish.
"Guys are having fun, guys are enjoying themselves. It is a little different but so far it's just been good. Guys are excited to play and to come to the rink every day. Our expectations are to work hard and play smart and get better every day, and that's pretty much it."

Read 271 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 October 2017 22:25