weather icon Clear

Au revoir, Montreal: Pacioretty ready to shine for Knights

Updated October 3, 2018 - 5:15 pm

To understand the long and winding and sometimes difficult road Max Pacioretty traveled to get here — star winger on a second line for a Golden Knights team that opens its second season on Thursday night against the Flyers at T-Mobile Arena — you have to remember 1991.

He wasn’t yet 3 years old.

It was the year Edmonton Oilers great Mark Messier issued a public trade demand, saying he wanted out if the team wasn’t willing to re-sign important players.

So it went that, in one of many cost-cutting moves by management, Edmonton dealt Messier to the New York Rangers.

“If that doesn’t happen,” Pacioretty said, “I’m probably not here.”

He probably never glides across a sheet of ice.

Three years after arriving in New York, Messier would lead the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years, and watching from their home in Connecticut was a father and his 5-year old son, learning the game together, falling in love with it together, creating the sort of inseparable bond that sports have a way of forming.

Soon after, Pacioretty was being fitted for a pair of skates at a local rink and, well, you might guess the rest, but it’s still a doozy of a tale.

His parents met while attending different high schools in San Francisco, his mother Ana born and raised in Mexico and his father Ray eventually setting the family back East.

If they had remained on the West Coast, it’s fairly certain Pacioretty wouldn’t have grown up to be one of the NHL’s most consistent goal scorers.

He would have had a better chance shooting at a net on grass than one on ice.

But he didn’t and Pacioretty has 30 or more goals in six of his last eight pro hockey seasons, here now after the Knights traded Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick to Montreal for him.

I’m not sure he has stopped smiling since things were finalized last month and he had signed a four-year, $28 million extension with Vegas. Pacioretty’s final season in Montreal was beyond forgettable on one of the league’s worst teams and himself limited to 64 games and 17 goals while dealing with an injured knee.

Captain of pressure

There was also the weight of a giant C.

Imagine if Derek Jeter had been born and raised in, say, Colombia, and still played for the Yankees, and was still named their captain, with all the pressures of understanding and embracing the championships and Hall of Fame names and history immortalized at Monument Park.

It might be how an American hockey player felt at times as captain of the Canadiens, because if 23 Stanley Cups don’t get get you a little tight sometimes, what will?

You can seek advice from some of the all-time Montreal greats — Saku Koivu, Guy Carbonneau, Serge Savard, Yvan Cournoyer — and Pacioretty did.

But nothing prepares you for wearing that specific letter on that particular sweater.

“I absolutely wanted to be (captain),” said Pacioretty, who held the honor his last three seasons in Montreal. “It’s never easy, especially there and during a losing season. Staying even keel is the only way to get through it.

“That said, it was tough. Last year was heavy. I was prepared to get through it and bounce back. I’m still prepared to bounce back — it just so happens that I’m in Vegas now — so I hope to bounce back here.”

He has a group of new teammates who are certain he will, who believe the chance to merely play on a second line and not feel the glaring pressure of everyone’s eyes on him to make a daily difference and return the 29-year-old Pacioretty to his 30-goal form.

This includes the most famous player in the room, who — as a native of Quebec — knows all about the often unfair expectations thrust upon a Canadiens captain.

“When that team wins, I’m sure you’re on top of the world,” said Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, “and when you lose, you’re the worst in the world. It’s definitely a tough market to play in. Max is a really good player, has a lot of character. I can’t imagine being in his shoes there. But it seems like he’s very happy here, very relaxed.

“He smiles a lot.”

It’s the byproduct of a weight the size of the Mount Royal Cross being lifted from one’s shoulders.

Hey, even Mark Messier once needed a change of scenery.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Golden Knights Videos
Golden Knight's owner Bill Foley's House for sale in The Ridges - Real Estate Millions
Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury Make Day for Critically Ill Teenager in ESPN “My Wish” - Video
A 13-year-old Las Vegas boy who has faced Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated to a special day by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in a new ESPN “My Wish” Series feature debuting Wednesday, July 17, on SportsCenter. In the feature, Doron Coldwell spends a day with the team and even gets an opportunity to replace his favorite player, three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, in the net.
Golden Knights Sell "Battle Worn Armor" To Season Ticket Holders - Video
The Golden Knights sell their "battle worn" apparel throughout both of the teams seasons including pucks, sticks, helmets and skates.
Summerlin 4th of July Parade - VIDEO
On July 4th Summerlin will be hosting the 25th annual Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade, an event that has grown massively over the years
Golden Knights McPhee talks on the first day of NHL free agency - VIDEO
Golden Knights incoming president of operations George McPhee addresses the media as free agency starts.
Golden Knights Trade Colin Miller as Development Camp ends - VIDEO
George McPhee speaks to the media following the end of the Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Development Camp Day 4 - VIDEO
Nic Hague stands out at day 4 of Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Hold First Scrimmage of Development Camp - Video
The first of three scrimmages was held at the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers Adam Hill and David Schoen discuss what stood out to them.
Golden Knights George McPhee Discusses Erik Haula Trade - Video
A day after it was announced that Erik Haula had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, incoming President of Hockey Operations George McPhee spoke to the media discussing the move.
Golden Knights Trade Erik Haula - Video
The Golden Knights have traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Nicolas Roy. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writer Adam Hill discuss the trade.
Golden Knights Coaches Looking for Veterans to Step Up in Development Camp - Video
Day two of the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp is in the books. Director of Player Development Wil Nichol says his staff is looking for the veterans of the camp to step up and be leaders to the younger guys, while at the same time doing their best to impress the coaching staff.
Golden Knights Draft Player with Strong Hockey Bloodlines - Video
The Golden Knights drafted Mason Primeau in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Primeau is no stranger to professional hockey, both his dad (Wayne Primeau) and his uncle (Keith Primeau) played in the NHL.
Golden Knights Kelly McCrimmon Talks Development Camp - VIDEO
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon talks about what he expects from everyone at development camp on their first day.
Golden Knights Dylan Coghlan On Veteran Experience - VIDEO
Golden Knights defenseman Dylan Coghlan talks about his veteran experience playing in Chicago and development camp.
Golden Knights President George McPhee talks about Williams Karlsson's 8 year deal
George McPhee presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Center William Karlsson speaks to media about 8 year contract
William Karlsson presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Development Camp at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
For the third consecutive year, Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp participants participated in a special community event at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
2019 NHL Awards Highlight Video
The 2019 NHL Awards took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Though Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone came close to winning the best defensive forward trophy, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O' Reilly took home the coveted Frank Selke Trophy. Jason Zucker, who was raised in Las Vegas and plays for the Minnesota Wild, accepted the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarianism. Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov took home the NHL's MVP Award. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gary Bettman discusses NHL rule changes - VIDEO
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media after Wednesday’s Board of Governor’s meeting.
Golden Knights' Mark Stone up for Selke Trophy
Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone is a finalist for the Selke Trophy. The award goes to the best defensive forward in the NHL. Stone led the league in takeaways last season with 122. His competition is St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly... And Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. Stone will find out if he wins Wednesday at the NHL Awards.
Vegas Golden Knights announce preseason schedule
The Golden Knights announced their preseason schedule Tuesday, as well as the date of their rookie camp and training camp.
Mark Stone and Stanley Cup visit MGM Grand
Mark Stone took photos and signed autographs for Golden Knights fans at the MGM Grand on Sunday. The Stanley Cup also made its way into the MGM Grand Main Lobby. The most revered trophy in hockey is on display to celebrate the upcoming 2019 NHL awards at the Mandalay Bay Center on June 19th. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights, Raiders Unite for Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
Golden Knights and Raiders players alike were more than excited to join together in a charity softball game to raise money for pediatric cancer. Players from both teams cannot wait for the Raiders to arrive in Las Vegas so more joint events can take place.
Golden Knights and Raiders Raise over $100K in Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
In the first-ever Battle For Vegas Charity Softball Game, the Golden Knights and Raiders raised $136,000 for the Tyler Robinson Foundation. At the end of the nights, it was the Raiders that raised the Battle For Vegas trophy, after beating the Golden Knights 20-16. Take a look at some of the highlights from the game!
Golden Knights' Reilly Smith Ready to Battle for Vegas - Video
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith is ready to Battle For Vegas in a charity softball game that will feature various celebrity athletes, including teammates Jonathan Marchessault, Ryan Reaves and Erik Haula. Smith's team will face off against former Raider Marcus Allen and his teammates, including Vontaze Burfict, Josh Jacobs and Maurice Hurst. The charity softball game is set to take place on Saturday, June 15th at the Las Vegas Ballpark.
Golden Knights Will Have a New Home in Henderson - Video
The Golden Knights are saying goodbye to the Henderson Convention Center and hello to the team's new hockey facility that will be located in the second largest city in Nevada. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights and Henderson make deal on new facility - VIDEO
Henderson City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Vegas Golden Knights to build and operate an indoor ice hockey facility in downtown Henderson, Tuesday evening. ( Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Kelly McCrimmon Gets Promoted to Golden Knight General Manager - Video
The Vegas Golden Knights have announced that Kelly McCrimmon has been promoted to General Manager of the team, effective September 1, 2019. Regarding his new role, McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the NHL's General Managers Meetings and will be the point of contact for other league GMs.
Golden Knights Say an "Awful Call" Cost Them the Series - Video
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault believe that an "awful call" by the officials cost them game 7.
Golden Knights Fans Watch Game 7 at T-Mobile - VIDEO
Golden Knights went through a roller coaster in game 7 which lead to the Knights loss 5-4 in overtime.
Sharks & Golden Knights fans fired up for Game 7
Ahead of Game 7 in San Jose, Sharks and Golden Knights fans get hyped for the game in the fan zone at SAP Center.
Golden Knights prepare for Game 7 in San Jose - VIDEO
Vegas Golden Knigths players and the head coach talk about their mindset ahead of facing the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 on the road at the SAP Center. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Knights' Gallant Calls DeBoer a "clown" - VIDEO
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant calls Sharks coach Pete DeBoer a "clown" and says his comments are a little "unclassy" for him in response to being called the master chirper for the Knights. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights fans father outside T-Mobile Arena waiting for game 6 against the Sharks
Golden Knights gather outside the T-Mobile Arena ready to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks.
Knights aim to close out Sharks series at home - VIDEO
The Vegas Golden Knights players and head coach Gerard Gallant spoke about what needs to be done ahead of Game 6 at the T-Mobile Arena to clinch the series. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gerard Gallant talks ahead of Game 6
The Golden Knights coach talked about his team’s upcoming game with the San Jose Sharks after Saturday’s practice.
UNLV’s Tony Sanchez embraces new Fertitta Football Complex

Already, the new UNLV football complex has paid off with several commitments for the 2020 recruiting class, pledges from the sorts of players who likely would have never considered the Rebels if not for such dedication to an on-campus facility.