A Golden Knight from Peterborough has played a central part in ‘slaying’ the opposition in one of the biggest underdog stories in the sporting world this year.
This time last year the Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team had no players and had never played a game before - and this week they are within reach of the biggest prize in their sport, the Stanley Cup.
The historic run has been described as a fairy tale adventure - and every good fairy tale needs a knight in shining armour. Step (or skate) forward Stanground man Lee Orchard.
Lee grew up in Peterborough, but now lives in the gambling capital of the world - and at almost every home game the Golden Knights have played, Lee has pulled on a knight costume, strapped on skates, and played the central role in the pre-game entertainment in front of 18,000 sell out crowds.
Lee (43) - who iced for junior ice hockey teams in Bretton when he was a youngster said: “I was in the right place at the right time. Jonny Greco runs the game day presentation - he has worked with the NBA (basketball), he was the production director for the WWE (wrestling). Someone put me in touch with him, and he said what do you want to do? I said I would love to be the arena host, the guy on the mic, doing the competitions, but my biggest issue is I’m not American - I likened it to if I went to see Manchester United play and there was an American guy on the mic I would be annoyed.
“Then about three weeks before the season started he came to me and said he had an idea. My background is being a show director at Medieval Times in Ibiza and Majorca for a number of years - we invented this character - I banter with the opposition and the fans - its been a lot of fun.
“Fifteen minutes before face off its time to go on ice - I go out there - whoever the opposition is, they have a man skating with the opposition flag, and I take them down with my sword.
“There are 18,000 in the arena, and another 10 million watching on TV waiting for me to fall over.”
The off-ice team at the Golden Knights had planned to start the season with the same show, had to cancel the spectacular in tragic circumstances, when 58 people were killed in a shooting in the city a few days before the first ever match.
Lee said: “The tragedy happened on October 1, we had spent a lot of time planning for the first ever game in Las Vegas, probably three weeks rehearsing, and then we had eight days to plan what we actually did - it was a memorial to the 58 killed. What they did that night was incredible. It was an emotional night for everyone.”
Lee made his debut the following night, when the Golden Knights played the Detroit Red Wings - the team his dad used to support.
He said: “My dad was a big Detroit Red Wings fan - a huge fan. He passed away in 2016, so unfortunately he didn’t see any of this. He would have loved this.
“My mum comes out a couple of times a year. She saw two games in December. She had only ever seen me play ice hockey once, in the 1980s, so it was a bit different to what she saw in the past.
“It is very different to learning to skate in Bretton. I never thought I would make it to the NHL - even if it is not as a player.”
Lee said he ended up moving to Las Vegas after meeting his former wife on a cruise ship - she was a performer in the city - and now he is keen to give something back to the city.
He said “I am working on a scheme to try and do something with the community.
“I am speaking to clients, who may have tickets for games they can’t go to, to pass them over to single parents, and people who work for the emergency services. It is something I am very passionate about - I really want to give something back to the city.”
Team makes history
The Vegas Golden Knights became the 31st NHL team at the start of the season.
The league held an ‘expansion draft’ allowing the team to select players from other teams - however the other teams in the league were allowed to ‘protect’ their best players, meaning the newest team could not select them.
Despite having the outcasts from the rest of the league - and losing star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to injury early in the season - the Golden Knights easily broke the record as the best expansion team in league history, winning their division and scoring 109 points - the previous record belonged to Florida in 1994, who scored 83 points while playing two more games. The Golden Knights are currently playing the Winnipeg Jets in the seven game series for a place in the Stanley Cup Final.