A season that began in tragedy ended in triumph for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Former Swift Current Broncos captain Cody Eakin was a key part of the historic expansion National Hockey League team that opened its season just days after the horrific shooting that left 58 dead and hundreds injured at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.
The Golden Knights helped a city recover as they put together the greatest expansion season in major North American professional sports, advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing in five games to the Washington Capitals.
“I am super proud,” said the 6’0” centre. “It was an emotional season the way it started, the way it was when we got there. It was just a blast to be part of. It still hasn’t quite hit fully, but one day we’ll all look back and be pretty proud of that season. Where we started to where we finished, it was a lot of fun.”
The Golden Knights finished with a 51-24-7 record and then defeated the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs.
“It was just 25 guys with chips on their shoulders and a burr in their saddle working towards a common goal and having fun at the same time. I think it all goes hand in hand. When you’re having fun and winning things happen a little easier. It’s kind of a snowball effect. Right away it just started working for us and we just took it and ran with it.”
Eakin, 27, finished with 11 goals and 16 assists in 80 games after being selected in the expansion draft after five seasons with the Dallas Stars. He added three goals and one assist in 20 playoff outings.
“I felt good. I felt towards the end of the season I was playing some good hockey and learning a lot from some new guys that, to be honest, I never really knew who they were before they got there. They surprised me and and learned from them. I think that’s the common theme is that everyone learned from each other, built off each other. We were all pretty proud of ourselves at the end. I felt pretty good about the season.”
Eakin has now played 459 regular season NHL games with the Capitals, Stars, and Golden Knights.
Eakin said that like most of his teammates, his Las Vegas experience was limited to the Strip before joining the Golden Knights.
“It is a really strong community. It’s a lot bigger than you think. The town was just so hungry for something to rally around. As an athlete we feel super lucky that we were able to have the season we had and also to be kind of the first franchise to move in there… We will share a special bond with that city that lasts a lifetime.”
The Winnipeg native returned to Swift Current for the Broncos Alumni Golf Tournament on July 28.
“It’s great every time I come back,” said Eakin. “I brought my fiancé for the first time, she has been hounding me to get out here. Just driving back and giving her the 10 minute tour around the city, telling her where all the boys used to live and the rink and the school, it just flooded my brain with memories, all good ones.”
His former team also had a historic season as the Broncos won their first Western Hockey League championship since 1993. Eakin may have been busy with his own playoff pursuit, but his most recent post on Twitter read: “Congratulations to @SCBroncos and @City_SC on your #whlchampionship”
“As the season progressed I knew where the team was standing,” explained Eakin. “After the deadline I was checking in every night, every game. It’s nice for all the guys that I played with, lots of them that couldn’t be here, but we were all sitting at home, I know I’m not the only guy that was keeping tabs… For all the things that we worked towards and never achieved to see the team do it you feel proud.”