Greatness Etched in Stone: Golden Knights Forward loves Las Vegas, and the city returns the favor

The Mark Stone that Golden Knights fans know is a maniac.

He’s the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound terror on skates who glides through T-Mobile Arena with his hockey stick pointed straight up like a spear. He’s a tower of passion and bravado who bellows, mouth agape, after goals, with his gloved fists pumping through the air.

It’s a persona crowds and teammates adore.

“It fires me up when he gets fired up,” Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “I love it. He’s such a passionate guy.”

That fire propelled Stone to where he is now, the marquee addition to the NHL’s maverick 31st franchise. It’s how he came to be worth $9.5 million per season despite being underrated and overlooked as he climbed the hockey ladder.

But that’s not all there is to know about Stone, an understated 27-year-old off the ice, whose other roles include brother, boyfriend and dog dad of three.

Now that the forward is tied to the Knights for the next eight years following his February arrival in a trade, he wants to be all of those things in his new home.

“I think sometimes trades can be tough but for me, knowing how great a group of guys I went to and how great a city I went to and how great an organization I went to made life so much easier for me to just kind of settle in and be who I am and be the player that I know I can be,” Stone said.

Understanding Mark Stone’s journey starts with his first hockey teammate: Michael Stone.

Four-year-old Mark played his first organized game on his 6-year-old brother’s team, and even though the two played other sports, they knew what the future held.

“I don’t think we ever thought about doing anything else,” said Michael Stone, a defenseman with the Calgary Flames. “Hockey was always No. 1.”

The two brothers took parallel paths: They left their Winnipeg, Manitoba, home at the same age for junior hockey, were drafted at the same age, became NHL regulars at the same age, and were traded by their first NHL teams at the same age.

“It’s kind of interesting that basically everything he did, I did,” Mark Stone said.

That includes going through trying moments this past year. Mark knew his future with the Ottawa Senators was up in the air because the team was struggling and his contract was set to expire this summer. Michael’s future was just up in the air, period.

He discovered he had a blood clot in November, and the Flames announced he would stop playing indefinitely while receiving treatment.

“It was not fun,” Michael said. “When you get a blood clot and you don’t really know what the deal is, it was not just a hockey concern it was an overall health concern. … I was confident it was going to be fine in the end. It was just a long process.”

Ultimately, things worked out for both Stones. Mark was traded to the Knights and received a lucrative extension, while Michael returned to the Flames’ lineup March 16.

“It was a long three and a half months,” Mark Stone said.

Mark Stone’s first teammate may have been Michael, but he’s had plenty since then. Most of his newest ones with the Knights have glowing things to say despite only playing with him for two months.

“Every time this team made an acquisition, they do their research and they get the best of the best,” forward Max Pacioretty said. “He is an example of them going out and making a huge trade but not just for a guy that is extremely talented but for a guy who is a leader and a great teammate as well.”

Stone carries the reputation as a locker room leader who’s been an assistant captain for the Senators and the Canadian men’s national team. He wasn’t given an official leadership position with the Knights in his short time with the team last season but it’s easy to see that in his future.

“He’s as fine a person as you can find in this game,” Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee said after acquiring Stone on Feb. 25. “You like him on the ice and you like him off the ice.”

An example of Stone’s leadership: This fall, Senators rookie Brady Tkachuk didn’t have a place to stay. So Stone and his longtime girlfriend Hayley Thompson offered the 19-year-old a spare room, and housed him until he moved out in January.

The two teammates bonded by putting their TVs and Xboxes side-by-side and playing video games like the online battle royale “Fortnite.”

“I really liked it,” Stone said. “I’m still really good friends with him. I think I’ll always be good friends with him. He added a little bit of youthful energy to the house.”

Stone moved out to join the Knights and left his Xbox behind soon after Tkachuk took his leave.

That gave Stone more time to focus on his main off-ice hobby: golf.

“I really don’t do a ton else,” Stone said.

He’s been a member at Breezy Bend Country Club near Winnipeg since he was playing junior hockey. When he rose up the professional ranks with the Ottawa Senators he began playing on the ClubLink, a series of 51 golf courses in Ontario, Quebec and Florida.

He also golfs on vacation and watches plenty on TV, when he and Thompson are not binge-watching shows such as “This is Us.” And thanks to a golf mat and net Thompson gave him for his 27th birthday in May, he can practice golfing at his new Las Vegas home.

“We’re pretty good players,” brother Michael Stone said. “He’s better than I am. He plays more often than I do and keeps at it a little more religiously.”

Mark Stone is good enough that he carries a 4 handicap, which means his average score is four strokes over par. He doesn’t limit himself to easy courses, either. For Michael’s 29th birthday this June, his wife Michelle and Mark organized an outing to Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of the 2019 U.S. Open.

“That’ll be fun …” Mark Stone said. “We’re going a week after the U.S. Open, so hopefully they make the course a little bit easier than what those guys have.”

Stone’s other off-ice amusement comes in the form of two golden retrievers, Olive and Lu, and one black Labrador, Eldrick, named after Stone’s favorite golfer, Tiger Woods.

He and Thompson have continued to expand their furry family since Olive arrived three years ago from a breeder, and the gang will be together in Las Vegas for the first time this September. Eldrick still was being trained when Stone was traded to the Knights, so he missed out on the Red Rock Canyon hikes Thompson took Olive and Lu on toward the end of last season.

He’ll get to take part this fall, though, once the family moves into their new home, which has a pool.

“I think they’re excited to get a pool,” Stone said. “They love the water. We have a decent-sized lot for them to run around.”

Those Red Rock visits aren’t likely to stop, though.

“They love it there,” Stone said. “They love cruising around and sniffing around and seeing new things. Those hikes are pretty awesome for them. It’s nice to have that in your backyard.”

The hikes are just one way Stone and his family are embracing their new surroundings since the post-trade “scramble” that left him only two hours to pack and hop on a plane to Las Vegas.

He’ll be more prepared when he returns in September, and he’s excited to continue to get to know his new home.

“He’s moved into a great situation where he is,” Michael Stone said. “He’s going to have a lot of fun and play some good hockey.”