LAS VEGAS — By morning, he watches the silent sunrise paint the mountains in nature’s most vibrant colors. By evening, he narrates amid the neon lights and pounding beats of the NHL’s wildest arena.
Dave Goucher thought he was coming here for a great opportunity. He didn’t expect this.
“It’s been everything I imagined and more,” said Goucher, who spent 17 years (2000-17) as the Bruins’ radio play-by-play man, making memorable calls (”Bergeron! Bergeron!”) next to analyst Bob Beers.
There have been no duck boats out here, yet, though Goucher has all but struck gold in the West. He wanted to get into television after 24 years covering hockey on the radio, and was pleased to find it took. He found instant chemistry with color man Shane Hnidy, who, like Beers, is an ex-Bruins defenseman. He didn’t think he’d fall in love with the area so quickly.
“For the longest time, people looked at The Strip and they thought of one thing,” he said. “When you live here or spend time here, you realize there’s a lot more than Las Vegas Boulevard. People live in real communities, have real jobs, and they love the Golden Knights.”
Goucher was raised in Pawtucket, R.I., and trained at Boston University,
Making the move to television was a draw, as was being part of Las Vegas’s first major pro sports team. His first season on the job: they went to the Stanley Cup Final. Last year, Vegas had the second-best home attendance in the league, averaging 105.5 percent of capacity. Only Chicago (107.2) had more.
He lives in Summerlin, a half-hour northwest of the city, on the border of Red Rock Canyon National Park. It’s also the home of the Knights’ team offices and practice rink.
The Raiders, NFL refugees from Los Angeles, will arrive next year. Given the NFL’s popularity, they will likely to draw a following. But the Knights are, as the billboards here say, Vegas Born. Their early success and boldness, trading for Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and signing Paul Stastny, has only solidified their standing.
From Summerlin to The Strip, their colors are everywhere, fans local to the area and visiting getting swept up in the fun of a show that makes the T-Mobile Arena neighborhood swell, even on a weeknight.
“You can’t go five minutes without seeing something Golden Knights-related,” Goucher said. “T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, license plates . . . it’s unbelievable. People I talk to who have been here their whole lives say they’ve wanted their own pro sports franchise for a long time. Now that they have it, they’re all in.”
When Goucher was at home in New England, he decompressed from the frenzy of NHL life by the water. He enjoys a similar peace and tranquility by here, where every evening, the fading silhouette glow of a mountain sunset washes the desert like a tide.
“I like the timelessness of both,” he said. “They’ve been here for thousands of years, before any of us were here, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.
“I didn’t know it existed until I moved out here.”
The Bruins avoided two scares in Las Vegas, and none had to do with the blackjack table.
Tuukka Rask needed help to get to the bench, after spending the waning seconds facedown in his crease. It was heat-related, he said.
“The heat,” he said after making 31 saves in the 4-3 win. “Not used to it.”
Not used to it? He’s from Finland, where they’ve been known to take saunas of 200 degrees.
“Not with all my gear on.”
Matt Grzelcyk blocked a shot with his left foot on his first shift of the game, and was helped to the room. An X-ray was negative.
“From there it was a matter of pain tolerance,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Grzelcyk logged 11:44 in total.
Fitting right in
Cassidy said after practice Monday that Brett Ritchie, who played his third game as the No. 3 right wing, has lived up to a modest billing.
“I didn’t have high expectations or low expectations,” he said of Ritchie, who scored the first Bruins goal of the year against the Stars, his old club.
But Ritchie played 8:38 in Vegas and didn’t offer much (one shot, one minor penalty). That was after Ritchie and linemates Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen met with offensive-minded assistant Joe Sacco. He counseled them on their spacing and routes.
“We had a big-bodied guy who had a couple of good years in Dallas, and last year for whatever reason it didn’t go as well,” Cassidy said before the game. “We needed to add a bigger body. I thought the other night [in Arizona] their line was stuck in mud offensively, but he was good on the puck and physical.”
He was the latter, crashing the crease twice in the opening minutes. The second earned him a seat in the Sin City sin bin.
Check the record book
The last time the Bruins started the season with three wins was 2001-02 . . . Joakim Nordstrom (undisclosed injury) could return Thursday at Colorado. He has been cleared for game action . . . Par Lindholm was scratched for the first time in his two-game Bruins career . . . David Backes drew in after Saturday’s scratch in Arizona, playing 12:08 over 16 shifts . . . After going underwater at the dot against Dallas, Patrice Bergeron won 18 of 25 (72 percent). David Krejci (4 for 11, 36 percent) wasn’t as sharp . . . Fun fact: Vegas is one of two NHL teams (Nashville) who have not made a trade with the Bruins . . . The Providence Journal reported the AHL Bruins returned defenseman Axel Andersson to Moncton (OHL). The club took his rights in last year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft at 30th overall. Andersson, 19, was a second-round pick by Boston (57th overall) in 2018.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports