The Vegas Golden Knights coaching staff did not participate in their home game against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday due to protocols related to COVID-19.
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon coached, assisted by the staff of Henderson of the American Hockey League, in the 5-4 shootout loss.
“We were working with the National Hockey League, and it became apparent our entire coaching staff was not going to be able to be available to coach, so once that was the case, we didn’t think it was a fair spot necessarily to put (Henderson coach) Manny Viveiros into,” McCrimmon said. “I would have the best familiarity with the players, so I think that probably … That would have been the thought process.”
The usual Vegas staff is coach Peter DeBoer; assistants Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill and Steve Spott; goaltending coach Mike Rosati; and video coach Tommy Cruz.
“We had an exposure on our coaching staff, so the best way to handle that is to isolate the entire staff,” McCrimmon said. “It’s not a case where the entire staff tested positive. Most [of them] didn’t, quite frankly, but the protocol is such that you pull those people from the group. But fortunately there’s been no positive tests for players. Based on how the day unfolded, we took the steps that we did to best prepare our team to play tonight.”
Vegas trailed 3-1 and 4-2 before forward Max Pacioretty scored twice in the third period to complete a hat trick and tie the game.
“We have such good structure on this team that it doesn’t change much other than everyone being on the same page and the different voice behind the bench,” Pacioretty said. “We all take pride in our systems. We work on them on a daily basis, whether it’s during practice or on video. So just being able to touch up some things here and there is important, but that being said we’re a very structured team, so that helps in a situation like this. I don’t know how many times this has ever happened in the history of hockey. But like I said, just a different voice back there, but same structure. I thought we played a strong game.”
McCrimmon coached Brandon of the Western Hockey League for 13 non-consecutive seasons before joining the Vegas front office in 2016. The Henderson assistants are Jamie Heward and Joel Ward.
“He’s coached plenty of hockey games in his life and had a lot of help,” Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said. “They had the Henderson staff up here. They did a great job. Kind of kept it simple for a bit, but he cares about winning. I’m sure that’s all he had in his mind behind the bench tonight.”
The Golden Knights, who won five of their first six games, will close their facility Wednesday before hosting the Blues again Thursday. It is unknown if the NHL coaches can return for that game.
“I think that throughout a season, and especially this one with it being the way that it is, you’re going to face adversity,” Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez said. “This is probably not the first time you’re going to see something like that happen in the League, but I’m proud of the way the guys handled it. I think guys still came in, they were professional about it. Obviously it’s a little bit different not having the coaches around, but I thought everyone, like I said, was a professional and prepared to play the way they would regardless of who was [behind] the bench. So obviously a weird situation, but that’s just kind of how things are going to go this year, I think.”
NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika contributed to this report