LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tens of thousands of Vegas Golden Knights fans, maybe more, were expected at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday for a Stanley Cup victory parade and a rally to mark the team’s first-ever NHL championship.
For the team that played its first game as an expansion franchise in October 2017 and for tourists in hotel rooms with windows overlooking the parade route in 2023, the event bore echoes of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history five years ago. Guests in high-rises with views of the strip were awakened by security guards asking to check around windows for guns or other weapons.
Las Vegas police said they prepared for upwards of 100,000 people to cram street-level viewing areas along Las Vegas Boulevard for a celebration that planners compared with annual New Year’s Eve fireworks shows that in past years have drawn estimates of 400,000 people. Unlike a winter midnight, evening temperatures on Saturday were expected to be in the 90s.
Hotel security guards searching rooms evoked the October 2017 shooting, when a lone gunman rained bullets from 32nd floor windows of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 20,000 people at an outdoor country music festival across the street. Fifty-eight people died that night and two died later of their injuries. Authorities said more than 850 people were injured. The gunman killed himself before police reached him. His motive for the attack was never firmly established.
Players who dubbed themselves the Golden Misfits after being drafted from other NHL teams embraced survivors, first responders and volunteers and the team has over the years become a key part of “Vegas Strong” events aimed at healing community trauma.
That first year, team owner Bill Foley famously predicted the Golden Knights would make the playoffs in three years and win the Stanley Cup in six years. The franchise surprised many by making the playoffs the first year and advancing to the championship before losing to the Washington Capitals in five games.
This year, the Golden Knights cruised through the playoffs, never facing an elimination game, and routed the Florida Panthers 9-3 in Game 5 on Tuesday. Team captain Mark Stone scored a three-goal “hat trick.” Jonathan Marchessault received the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Marchessault is one of the six original members of the Golden Knights expansion team. He and the others — Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb and William Carrier — were among the first to hold the Stanley Cup during post-game celebrations.
All week, players have been spotted celebrating at some of the same glittery resorts the procession will pass. The casinos have familiar names: Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Bellagio, Horseshoe, Paris Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan, Planet Hollywood, New York-New York, Aria, MGM Grand.
Officials said the Strip would be closed for the motorcade, which was set to begin at 7 p.m. near Flamingo Road and proceed about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) to Tropicana Avenue before a fan rally at Toshiba Plaza and the Park District in front of T-Mobile Arena.
Police said road closures would be from about 4:30 p.m. until after celebrations end. Glass bottles, large bags, luggage and backpacks were prohibited, along with coolers, strollers and collapsible seats.
The parade route, arena and plaza also hosted a championship victory celebration last September, after the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun to win the WNBA Championship. The women’s basketball team also plays at T-Mobile Arena.
Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to correct that road closures start at 4:30 p.m., not 3 p.m.
Source: Yahoo Sports