This year’s NHL season showed us just how big the USA’s gun problem is

By Alasdair Hooper

As this year’s NHL regular season draws to a close ice hockey fans can look back on stunning plays, games and story lines.

The playoffs are now upon us with 16 teams soon to be battling it out to be crowned Stanley Cup champions.

The sport itself is the talking point right now – as it should be.

But as the curtain falls on the latest regular season there is something else that sticks in the mind for all the wrong reasons.

Guns.

On two separate occasions this season a representative from an NHL team had to address their home fans in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

The men who had to stand up and give those powerful speeches were Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights and Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers.

 

The Second Amendment of the United States constitution says: 

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

  

Sunday, October 1 2017

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A crowd of concertgoers were attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas strip, intending to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Unbeknownst to them 64-year-old Stephen Paddock was preparing to unleash mayhem from the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

At 10.05pm that night he fired 1,100 rounds from his room on the 32nd floor into the crowd below.

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He left 58 people dead and 851 injured before turning the gun on himself.

Nine days after the atrocity the NHL’s brand new team – the Vegas Golden Knights – played their very first home game.

What should have been a sporting celebration turned into a memorial event with alternate captain Deryk Engelland addressing the crowd and paying tribute to the first responders.

“Like all of you I am proud to call Las Vegas home,” said the Canadian defenseman.

“I met my wife here, my kids were born here and I know how special this city is.

“To all the brave first responders that have worked timelessly, and courageously, throughout this whole tragedy we thank you.”

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In the midst of that tragedy the Vegas Golden Knights went and wrote a sporting fairy tale – winning their division in their inaugural season and qualifying for the playoffs.

But the memory of that shooting and the Vegas Strong message of solidarity never left them.

On the final home game of the regular season the team retired the No. 58 jersey in honour of the victims.

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It means no player will ever wear that number.

Additionally a banner with 58 stars and the names of those that lost their lives was raised into the rafters at T-Mobile Arena to hang as a permanent tribute.

Wednesday, February 14 2018

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On Valentine’s Day 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Armed with a semi-automatic rifle and wearing a gas mask he sounded the fire alarm.

He then started shooting at students who thought it was a fire drill, killing 17 and wounding another 17.

Cruz was then arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

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As the atrocity was occurring the Florida Panthers were on an NHL road trip playing away in Vancouver.

Their goaltender Roberto Luongo lives in the Parkland area, his wife is from there and – more importantly – his children go to school in the area.

At their first home game since the school shooting, on February 22, Luongo took to the ice with a microphone to deliver a speech from the heart.

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“No child should ever have to go through that,” said the Canadian and two-time Winter Olympic gold medallist.

“It’s terrible and it’s time for us as a community to take action.

“It’s enough. Enough is enough. We’ve got to take action.”

Luongo is one of the game’s great characters – a gentleman who isn’t afraid to say what he sees.

In that short moment one NHL goaltender hit the nail on the head – enough is enough.

He added: “Since last Wednesday I’ve been watching the news and I’ve been seeing what the kids from Douglas Stoneman have been doing and I am very, very proud of you guys.

“You guys are brave, you guys are an inspiration to all of us and at the end of the day you guys are what’s giving us hope for the future.”

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Despite the words, the campaigning from the students and more gun atrocities the USA still doesn’t get it.

No NHL player should have to stand up and address their home fans in circumstances such as these.

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No concertgoer, no teacher and no child should ever have to face something like this.

So how many speeches, how many sport stars and how many more deaths will it take before the country finally wakes up?

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