Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and his wife Hannah had her parents over for a barbecue in June 2014, less than a week after getting the keys to their new house in Sweden.
That’s when they learned they were moving out in three months.
Bellemare, then 29, agreed to an NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and needed to leave for the U.S. It completed a hectic journey for the Golden Knights center, who never dreamed about making such a move while growing up in his native France.
“For me, it’s so little hockey in France and it’s such a big deal for me, for my country to be here,” Bellemare said during an appearance Wednesday on the Review-Journal’s Golden Edge podcast. “It’s a proud moment. There’s not a lot of French players who have ever made the NHL.”
Bellemare, who was born in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France, started playing hockey when he was 6 years old because he and his older brother Geoffroy-Alexis accompanied his sister Aurore-Annick to a free skating session. A hockey coach was there and asked Bellemare and his brother to come back a week later so he could put them through drills.
“I was on my ass the entire time, but I had a blast,” Bellemare.
The coach told Bellemare’s mother Frederique the two should play hockey. And so Bellemare did, even though he didn’t fully commit to the sport until he left France to play professionally in Sweden in 2006. He quit medical school to take the contract.
Still, he didn’t think he was going to the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks expressed interest when Bellemare was 26, but an injury caused him to miss sixth months and ended negotiations.
“After that, I thought it was over,” he said.
The experience made him not get his hopes up when the Flyers came calling until the ink was dry on his contract. He became the 10th player born in France to ever play in an NHL game, and now he’s almost done with his fifth season.
“At the time I didn’t know I was going to make the NHL, but just the fact that I’d done enough (of a) job for those 20 years of hockey so that somebody recognized me by saying, ‘Good job, here’s a ticket, see what you can do when you’re here,’ that was kind of a big reward,” Bellemare said.
Miller makes return
Knights defenseman Colin Miller made his presence felt Tuesday in a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars after being a healthy scratch for two games.
Miller, who had never been a healthy scratch for the Knights before, fired four shots on goal and had four hits, his second-highest total of the season in both categories.
“Obviously a little bit frustrating to be out the past couple games,” Miller said. “I just tried to go out there and play my game, help the team get the win. I thought everyone played well and stepped up.”
Odds and ends
— Max Pacioretty scored two goals against the Stars for his fifth multi-goal game this season and 45th of his career. Since 2010-11, only Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin (72) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (58) have more career multi-goal games.
— Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has the NHL’s third-highest selling jersey since the start of this season, according to the league, behind Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.
NHL players born in France
— Andre Peloffy (1975)
— Pat Daley (1980-81)
— Paul MacLean (1981-91)
— Philippe Bozon (1992-95)
— Cristobal Huet (2003-10)
— Stephane Da Costa (2011-14)
— Max Sauve (2012)
— Antoine Roussel (2013-present)
— Xavier Ouellet (2013-present)
— Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2014-present)
— Yohann Auvitu (2017-18)