The symbiotic relationship between fan and athlete is a fundamentally odd one. We don’t know them, even if it can sometimes feel like we do. So while we see their personalities on display and are readily familiar with them within the realm of their sport, there’s also plenty that we don’t know.
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The Vegas Golden Knights are no exception. The men who ply their trade at T-Mobile Arena are a colorful cast of unique personalities with a deep web of compelling and notable backgrounds that serve to form their identity. And that’s just scratching the surface.
We certainly don’t know everything about our Knights, but we do know at least a few cool tidbits. Here are some interesting things that you may not know about some of your favorite Golden Knights:
1) Shea Theodore Was Saved By a Random Drug Test
Shea Theodore thought it was a little strange when he was summoned for a second drug test at the World Championships in 2019. As he told The Player’s Tribune in the months following the event, he was not prepared for the news that he had been flagged for the hormone hCG, which is typically found in pregnant women. In some cases, however, it serves as an indicator of testicular cancer. Theodore did, indeed, have testicular cancer, but catching it early made the subsequent procedure and recovery fairly routine.
If the Golden Knights blueliner not been playing in the tournament but had been home for the summer, who knows when it would have been detected. It turns out, winning the silver medal with Team Canada was the second-best thing to come out of the World Championships for Theodore.
2) Keegan Kolesar Has NFL Roots
Keegan Kolesar comes by his tough, physical style of play honestly. His birth father is K.D. Williams, a former linebacker who suited up for the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders over a pro career that also took him to the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe. Williams and Kolesar’s mother, Corrinne, divorced soon after the 24-year-old forward was born. It was step-father Charles Peterson whom Kolesar left the playoff bubble to bid farewell to before he succumbed to COVID-19.
3) Canada Had the Howden Brothers to Thank in 2018
Canada’s international teams got a double dose of the Howden family in early 2018. Days after Brett Howden returned home from the World Junior Championships with a gold medal, his older brother Quinton, a veteran of 97 NHL games who was playing in the KHL at the time, got the call to join the Canadian Olympic team at the 2018 Games. Brett happened to be home when Quinton got the call, so Hockey Canada allowed the younger brother to break the news.
4) Max Pacioretty Has a Legendary Appetite
Despite what Max Pacioretty’s ‘Wolverine’ nickname might suggest, the veteran winger actually isn’t a fan of comic books. Instead, it is largely due to his quick healing power, although it could also be a nod to his voracious appetite. During his time as captain of the Montreal Canadiens, he admitted to the Montreal Gazette, “The other day for breakfast I had 12 pancakes, a couple sandwiches for lunch and seven tacos for dinner.” (from ‘Five things you may not know about Max Pacioretty’, Montreal Gazette, 09/18/15).
5) NHL Dreams Came Very Early for Chandler Stephenson
Just about every hockey player began as a young boy with dreams of one day playing in the NHL. For Chandler Stephenson, though, there was pretty well no other option. At four years of age, Stephenson began pursuing his NHL dream as the youngest and smallest player on his ringette team, because he hadn’t yet fulfilled the age requirement for hockey.
A few years after that, an 11-year-old Stephenson plainly stated his NHL objective in a school essay, writing, “when I grow up I want to play in the NHL and have a big old house and a big old bank account.” Check and check.
6) Alex Pietrangelo Got His Head Shaved to Support His Niece
The worst haircut Alex Pietrangelo ever got might have also been the best. In 2014, Pietrangelo’s five-year-old niece Ellie Kannel was undergoing chemotherapy for Wilm’s Tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer found in children. To support her and boost her spirits, the then-St. Louis Blues defenseman had Kannel shave his head. Since then, Pietrangelo has been actively involved in raising money for cancer charities, including the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
7) Robin Lehner Suffered a Panic Attack During a Game
Long before he joined the Golden Knights via trade, Robin Lehner had his first big night in Vegas at the 2019 NHL Awards. The Swedish goaltender won the William M. Jennings Trophy for sporting the league’s lowest goals-against average and the Bill Masterton Award for courage and perseverance.
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The Masterton was in recognition of his public battle with mental health issues and substance and alcohol abuse. On March 29, 2018, Lehner suffered a crippling panic attack during the second intermission of a game against the Detroit Red Wings, rendering him unable to return to the crease. The veteran netminder has since reached out for help and has remained on the right track through stops with the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas.
8) Sibling Rivalry Looms Large for Mark Stone
For the past eight seasons, Mark and Michael Stone have plied their trade in the NHL, so head-to-head battles between the siblings have become commonplace. That was far from the case ten years ago when the two faced off in the semifinals of the 2010 Memorial Cup, Canada’s national junior hockey championship.
Mark’s Brandon Wheat Kings – coached by Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon – bested Michael’s Calgary Hitmen in a game played just over two hours from the family’s hometown of Winnipeg. Mark’s bragging rights, however, were muted after they were crushed 9-1 in the final by a loaded Windsor Spitfires team featuring Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler and Adam Henrique.
9) William Karlsson Doesn’t Exactly Live Up to His Nickname
When you watch William Karlsson and his elite skills and game-breaking speed on the ice, it’s easy to see why his “Wild Bill” nickname suits him. Off the ice, however, the nickname is ironic. In truth, Karlsson doesn’t have much of a wild side, exuding more of a quiet, low-key presence without much need for excitement beyond his skating speed. “I’ve very vanilla, yeah?” admitted Karlsson in a 2018 interview with the Toronto Sun. (from ‘The legend of Wild Bill: William Karlsson is hockey’s most unlikely success story’, Toronto Sun, 03/16/18).
10) For Nolan Patrick, Making the NHL Was Simply Keeping Up
In the Patrick family, athletic excellence has come to be expected. Nolan Patrick’s father is a former NHLer, his mother played volleyball for the Canadian national team, his grandfather played in the CFL, his older sister played hockey at the University of British Columbia and his younger sister currently plays volleyball at the University of Manitoba. Patrick even has two uncles with NHL experience, including James, a veteran of 1,280 games.
Vegas president George McPhee and McCrimmon have long emphasized the importance of having high character guys to build around. And true to their word, the Golden Knights executives have assembled a group of quality, albeit perhaps quirky, individuals who have reached the top of their sport as a result of the influence of those close to them and what they’ve had to overcome. In short, these are some pretty interesting dudes.
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I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.