WINNIPEG — Bruce Cassidy is in enemy territory these days, but the Vegas Golden Knights head coach is enjoying a special playoff atmosphere.
When the Golden Knights hit the ice Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 3 of their first-round series, a sold-out crowd of 15,325 at Canada Life Centre continued the “whiteout” playoff tradition of wearing white and waving white towels while cheering loudly for the Jets.
Cassidy was happy his team left with a 5-4 double-overtime victory, and also glad they got to experience an atmosphere that he said on Sunday is good for the NHL.
“I’m a Canadian, right?” said Cassidy, who was born in Ottawa, Ont. “You get into certain markets … I’m watching the Florida (Panthers hosting the Boston Bruins) game the other night and I’m seeing a lot of red seats, you know, and not people in them, right?
“You get into a market here that’s a smaller market and the place is full and there’s energy, there’s support, and I think it’s good for the league. You’d like every building to be like this in the playoff times, like ours (in Vegas), and go through the different teams in the league.
“That’s why I’m a fan of it. You want fans in the building. You want people that are behind their team. So it’s as simple as that to me. That’s what I like about it and I hope they continue to do it and it keeps growing here.”
Game 4 on Monday in Winnipeg should feature vocal fans trying to lift the Jets to even the Western Conference series that Vegas leads 2-1.
Jets defenceman Neal Pionk is looking forward to soaking up the vibe again.
“The Canadian market, the small building, the intensity. Honestly, the white colour. It was crazy,” said Pionk, who was born in Omaha, Neb.
“The start of that game was probably one of the coolest experiences in my life. I’ve been here four years now and it’s the first time I’ve seen a whiteout, so that was really cool and I’m looking forward to it (on Monday).”
Veteran defenceman Nate Schmidt said he believed the crowd helped the team claw back from a 4-1 deficit going into the third period.
“Hearing the last three goals is what makes it a little bit different,” said the St. Cloud, Minn., product. “I don’t think anybody could really hear anybody on the bench. It was pretty special.
“I know the start of the game, we give up two (goals) early, but the crowd stayed in it the whole time. I think that’s such an important part. That’s what you’re going to need.
“You have to have that advantage when you come home. We end up dropping the game (Saturday) night, but we took a lot of momentum from them.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press