Saturday, June 17, 2023 | 11:29 p.m.
A shirtless William Karlsson grabbed the microphone.
Soft-spoken and normally one to let his play do the talking, there was not going to be any stopping the Golden Knights’ center from this moment.
Karlsson’s speech was a combination of dedicating the championship to Jonathan Marchessault, to thanking the fans for their support since the inaugural season six years ago.
“(Marchessault) was here Day One,” a stumbling Karlsson said with plenty laughs from his teammates behind him.
Karlsson was not shy on this night. None of the Golden Knights were as they paraded down Las Vegas Boulevard to celebrate winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
More than a dozen buses and vehicles slowly made their way from Flamingo Road to Tropicana Avenue with players and members of the organization continuing the party that’s been going on since the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup on Tuesday.
Former Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland was shaking bottles of champagne on top of a double-decker bus. Defenseman Nic Hague poured copious amounts of beer and drank it out of the Stanley Cup. Even defenseman Shea Theodore took the Cup and went straight for the barricaded fans alongside the closed-off area of the Strip.
It was nothing compared to what was going on at Toshiba Plaza outside T-Mobile Arena.
Thousands of fans gathered, waiting for the Golden Knights to arrive on the main stage. Inflatable flamingos were scattered across the floor. Gold rally towels, along with gold pom poms and flags, were given out to fans in excess.
A tall balloon that said “Free Hugs” was front and center, only to be accidentally released into the dusk Strip sky.
Hours trickled on, the sun continued to set, before Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and coach Bruce Cassidy were first to take the stage and acknowledge the thousands that wanted to celebrate.
Hung high above the championship stage, over the third-floor ledge of T-Mobile Arena, was the Vegas Strong banner that honors the 60 that died on the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2017. In-arena host Mark Shunock led a rousing cheer from the crowd to honor them.
Cassidy took the stage to numerous fans chanting “Bruce!” after the first-year Vegas coach won his first championship.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to coach the Vegas Golden Knights,” said Cassidy, who then started a “back-to-back!” chant to signify the Golden Knights are going for a second straight championship next season.
As the players took the stage — highlighted by Karlsson almost falling off the stairs — an emotional Mark Stone took to the podium days after his hat trick in the clinching Game 5 against the Florida Panthers.
“I know this is a party city, but does it get any (expletive) better than this?” Stone started his speech.
Teary eyed, Stone — who has had two back surgeries in the past year — thanked “the best fans in the world.”
“On Tuesday night, when we were rolling, it brought tears to the guys’ eyes on the bench,” Stone said. “We knew we were going to win, no matter what it took. We’re the ones up here celebrating this Stanley Cup, but the crowd, the building we have every night … you guys bring it. You bring it every night and make it special for us.”
Following a tribute video that highlighted important milestones throughout the season and was capped off with the 9-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, the Golden Knights’ goal horn sounded 16 times for each playoff win.
One Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer working near the barricade said it wasn’t as hectic as New Year’s Eve on the Strip. The energy and excitement, he said, made it worth it to work the hottest day on record this year at 98 degrees.
The Golden Knights have a rotation of songs they played after every win. It includes songs like “Hold the Line” by Toto, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, and the most popular of the room “Never Going Home” by Kungs.
The Golden Knights may not be going home for a while should the party continue, but being Stanley Cup champions awards that luxury.
“This is an incredible community. You guys have supported us since Day One,” Stone said. “This team, this city, the bond they’ve built, the commitment to winning. And here we are: Stanley Cup champions.”