Golden Knights reminded us why sports can matter so much


COLUMUBUS, Ohio — Here is something Jon Ledecky has said repeatedly since he and co-owner Scott Malkin bought the majority stake in the Islanders two years ago, reiterating it on Tuesday in midtown Manhattan.

“Scott and I bought it to do what we felt was community work and have a community trust.”

It is an obligation of the media to take sentiments like this and look at them skeptically, if not downright cynically. Never has someone bought a team with total disregard to profit. There is far too much money to be made in pro sports to be solely altruistic. Is developing a “community trust” a smart way to have people want to give you their money?

But then you look at the scene in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and wonder about the power of sports, about the community they create, about what it really means to us to have these games in our lives.

Here is a quintessential fact about sports that all of us, in some way or another, understand: The outcomes of the games don’t matter. Here is another fact that maybe is less obvious: What we take from the playing of the games absolutely does.

It is the coming together to experience the highs and lows, the communal experience of triumph and defeat, and the intellectual dissection of what happened, and why. It’s heroes and villains in an improvisational fiction. It’s the characters on the field and off, the contracts, the trades — the interplay of personalities that create this running narrative that goes on without end.

The best of fiction, just as the best of sports, can deliver an instantaneous glimpse at a truth that maybe — just maybe — can help you deal with a difficult reality. As humans we’re drawn to stories, and we like to see what happens for ourselves. We don’t like to just be told what happened, and certainly don’t want to be told what to think about it. To be a fan is to take part in that story, and that’s an enthralling prospect.

The names of the 58 people killed at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival were projected on the ice.Ethan Miller

So those thousands of people in Las Vegas who were effected by the horrid shooting of a madman, and their loved ones who were effected everywhere, they got to enjoy this new thing, these Golden Knights, who soared to the best start in any expansion team’s history (3-0-0) while the faces of their new team, James Neal (five goals in first games) and Marc-Andre Fleury (45 stops in the season-opener in Dallas), excelled. The people now have something to confide in, something they can all come together and care about as a group.

As New Yorkers, we understand the importance of sports in times of tragedy. George W. Bush in a bulletproof vest at Yankee Stadium in 2001 still brings chills. We play these games and we invest in them for far more reasons than escapism. From them we bring lessons about failure and success, about the ebb and flow of human nature, about how the smallest decision can make the biggest difference.

Las Vegas is a uniquely American city, one full of lust and gluttony, glitz and glamor, opportunism and fortitude and ambition. So many of the people who call that town home are transient, but have adopted that electric-blinking Sodom as their own. In turn, the beauty of the city is in the people, the nooks and crannies of happiness that have banded together and might go unseen while rolling 7’s and hitting on 15.

And now they have a single thing in the community to rally around at this time of horror. Hopefully at some point around the nation (and world) these types of incidents stop becoming the backdrop of our reality. Hopefully someday, someone in power is actually going to wake up and try to have an informed discussion on gun laws that might need to be changed, or on how to deal with those people who suffer from mental-health issues. At the very least, how to keep those two things away from one another.

For now, Vegas has the Golden Knights to look towards, and sports has never seemed so important to a city that never had it before.

Quiet Pens

Hard to blame the Penguins for going with radio silence on social media during their trip to the White House this week. Any extra acknowledgement would have only brought grief. And to be honest, if they didn’t go, what would that really solve? Like so many other recent protests, it would be about the protest itself and those doing it, not any societal issue that needs to be addressed.

Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby was part of a small off-Broadway drama entitled “Embellishment,” his lead role stolen by Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.

The overwhelming talent

Here’s a quick-hitter to remind you that this league is overflowing with talent like it might never have seen before.

Nikita Kucherov:

Auston Matthews:

Connor McDavid (still the best):

Stay tuned …

… to the next time the Devils’ Blake Coleman gets a penalty. On Saturday, the rookie winger went to the box for slashing, and while there, he had a teammate skate by to bring him a pickle jar so he could swig some juice. Apparently, Coleman started drinking pickle juice in college to prevent cramping (and no, he doesn’t like it).

Parting shot

So we might have gotten the save of the year in the preseason, and now we might have gotten the pass of the year in just the first week of the regular season. What a beauty from the Sharks’ Joonas Donskoi to Chris Tierney on Friday night.





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