Connect with us



2023 Stanley Cup Final: Game 1

Steve Marcus

Lynne Portaro poses with her husband Ron Portaro as he shows off a custom Oct. 1 Vegas Golden Knights jersey in The Park before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Golden Kinights and the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, June 3, 2023.

Ron Portaro walks through Toshiba Plaza on his way to T-Mobile Arena Saturday for the start of the Stanley Cup Final and is consistently stopped by other Golden Knights supporters raving about his jersey.

Portaro is sporting a gray Golden Knights sweater with the number 702 on the back and “Vegas Strong” on the nameplate ahead of Game 1 against the Florida Panthers. The numbers on the shoulders: 10 and 1.

Portaro fell in love with the Golden Knights during their maiden season of 2017-18, when they went on an improbable run to Cup Final in the months after the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip that immediately claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 others.

“The man in the sky gave us the Golden Knights to help us heal,” Portaro said.

That healing process was highlighted by the home opener nine days after the shooting, when the franchise had an emotional pregame tribute to the shooting victims and then scored four goals in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes in a resounding victory.

Locals sure made it loud at T-Mobile Arena that night in the start of our love affair with the team, and one of those moments that signaled Vegas was becoming a true hockey city. Six years later, all that’s left is hoisting the Cup with the Panthers standing in the way.

“The way this community has embraced the team is nothing short of phenomenal. This team is the darling of Vegas, particularly for the full-time residents that live here,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Let’s be clear: Vegas, we are an extremely lucky bunch.

Hockey fans wait decades for a chance to be in the arena for the pageantry that is hockey’s biggest stage. On Saturday night, we got to root for our team in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in six years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the NHL’s “Original Six” franchises, hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Final since last winning it 1967. And in the hockey hotbed that is Canada, the 1993 Montreal Canadiens were the last champions. The Panthers hadn’t been since 1996.

Yet, here we are in the middle of the desert with one of the league’s premier brands. More important: One of its most consistently successful brands.

When the Golden Knights made their miracle postseason run in 2018, some observers said our town wasn’t ready for the hockey glory because we were new on the scene. We hadn’t suffered long enough with a losing team just like every expansion franchise in every sport before.

“We didn’t know squat about hockey until the Golden Knights,” said Portaro, who attended the game with his wife, Lynne, and son Christian.

But in Las Vegas we are winners — at everything.

The Golden Knights have strong ownership led by Bill Foley, who invested in our community to bring us the area’s first major professional franchise and boldly proclaimed they’d win the Cup in six years. This is that sixth year.

Instead of waiting to develop young players to construct a winning roster, management took chances on high-priced imports like team leaders Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo and Jack Eichel, who despite needing back surgery was signed to a longterm contract after being dealt from the Buffalo Sabres.

If they miss on Eichel, the franchise would have been hampered by salary cap restrictions and not in the position to be champions.

They kept together core pieces like original team members Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Shea Theodore, and were aggressive in making a coach change when a different voice was needed in the room.

The end result? A championship-caliber franchise who is giving the community meaningful night after meaningful night of sports entertainment.

It is powerful watching our community come together from all corners of town with the common goal of passionately cheering for the Golden Knights.

Whether it’s those who were fortunate enough to have tickets for the series opener, or the masses at watch parties throughout town, we’ve become addicted to pulling for the team. We anxiously await at the edge of our seats for the build-up to a goal, jumping in unison when our team scores.

This kind of intense fan support is a common occurrence in other cities who have teams making a playoff run, but it is still something relatively new to us. It’s awesome to have a team to root for, and even better to have hundreds of thousands of like-minded friends to root with.

That’s especially true for the Portaro family. Christian traveled from Cleveland to attend Game 1 with his parents, realizing this was a rare opportunity to be part of franchise history.

The team is that meaningful to the family. And the rest of us.

“There’s something special happening in this city (because of the Golden Knights),” Ron Portaro said.

Article written by #LasVegasSun