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We’re Going to Vegas

Sep 13 2018
Photo by
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Photo by
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
Max Pacioretty
Vegas Golden Knights
Sep 13 2018
T

hey’re not even on the sheets.

Wait, no, hang on — let me backtrack. Alright, so my wife, Katia, and I, we have three sons, plus another on the way. James, our youngest, he’s around 14 months, which makes him a little too young still to understand all of what’s going on. But our two oldest, Lorenzo and Maximus? They’re four and three. And those two, man, they’re already hockey rats for life.

So when we broke the news to the boys about the trade, at the breakfast table before school on Monday, it’s funny — they pretty much instantly had the same reaction:

“WHAT TEAM ARE THEY ON THE SHEETS??”

O.K., so, yeah…. the sheets. We got Lorenzo and Maximus these “official” NHL sheets for their bedroom — and you should see them, they’re pretty sharp: they have the logos of all the teams, you know, in this big pattern the whole way around. And the boys sleep in them every night, of course, so it’s almost become this second language to them. Like, yeah, they’re getting to know hockey — they’re getting to know the players and the teams and the cities and all of that. But the logos? Man, those logos, they know like the back of their hand.

So anyway we get up from the kitchen and walk straight to their bedroom, and they’re breathless at this point — I mean, you’ve never seen anyone as excited about anything as these kids were to find the logo of their dad’s new team on their sheets. We get to the beds, pull one of the sheets up, and I’m scanning it…. I’m scanning it…. I’m scanning it…..

And then it hits me.

Those sheets — they’re like two years old.

Vegas isn’t on them.

So I’m like, “Oh, yeah, right…. I forgot…. see, they’re this new team…. so they’re not on the sheets yet…. and—” and my explanation is going over about as well as you’d expect. They’re not on the sheets. It’s a big problem. Now we’re at a code-red emergency here, basically. I’m worried that my sons aren’t going to believe me about the trade, or they’re going to think I’m not in the NHL anymore, or…. who knows what. And I’m just sitting in their bedroom, holding these “official” NHL team sheets that don’t have my team on them, racking my brain for anything to show the boys as proof that the Knights are legit.

Finally, I figure it out. I grab a stack of their hockey cards, and start riffling through.

Bingo.

DAVID PERRON — VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

So I’m like, “Vegas! Here — come on, you remember these guys, right? From the playoffs last year? That cool team in black and gold? They made the Cup Fi—”

And right in that snap second, I see their eyes just light up. I know I don’t even have to finish the sentence. The boys, not only do they remember Vegas from the playoffs last year……. they loved Vegas in the playoffs last year.

So now they’re jacked.

Now they’re parading around the house, you know, chanting and hollering, “WE’RE GOING TO VEGAS, WE’RE GOING TO VEGAS.” It’s like 0-to-60, and suddenly they’re hyped, it’s hilarious. They even insist on bringing the David Perron card into school, to show off to their classmates. And then the whole drive to school, really, it’s the same thing: “WE’RE GOING TO VEGAS, WE’RE GOING TO VEGAS” — they can’t believe it, they’re so excited.

And I think I needed that.

James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

I know I needed it, to be honest.

Because there are so many things running through your head, so many different little thoughts and feelings, after you’ve been traded from a place where you’ve played for as long as I’ve played in Montreal. With a trade like this one — I mean, you’re pretty much working through every emotion in the book. Just thinking about how, you know, Wow…. I’m going to be leaving the place that I’ve called home for my entire adult life.

It can be a lot to process — and I know I’ll be thinking about it all for a while.

I’ll be thinking about the Draft — Max Pacioretty, 22nd overall, to the Montreal Canadiens.

I’ll be thinking about my NHL debut, and putting on that Habs sweater for the first time.

I’ll be thinking about the incident in 2011 that nearly came to define my career: when I took that hit into the stanchion against Boston, and came out of it with some pretty bad injuries. Unfortunately I can’t remember much from the night of the incident, but from everything my parents have told me about it, you know…. it’s still to this day something that I can’t really talk about or write about without getting emotional. But here’s what I do know: Geoff Molson, the Canadiens owner, was one of the very first people to arrive at the hospital that night. And he didn’t just visit there from a business perspective. He spent time reassuring my parents, communicating with the doctors…… you know, just totally going above and beyond. I’m probably not describing this very well, but it’s one of those things that’s always meant a lot to me. And then also the way that our fans, and really just everyone in Montreal, how they supported me after the injury. From the top down, I felt like it was the exact same message: We take care of our own — and you’re one of our own, now. We’ve got you. You’re family. I mean…. I’ll never, ever forget that.

I’ll be thinking about the greatest honor of my career to date: the night that I was named Captain of the Canadiens. It was a few years ago, at a team dinner, the night before we opened camp. We all voted in a silent vote — and then the coaches stayed and counted up the results, while the players went home. As soon as they had the tally, our coach and GM, they drove directly to my house, to give me the news. And I’ll tell you what — that was an emotional moment. One thing I’ll always appreciate about my time with the Habs, it isn’t just my teammates voting me Captain, but it’s also the way that so many of the Habs alumni, especially former captains like Serge Savard and Guy Carbonneau, how they rallied around me, and were always there to offer their perspective on this and that — just as far as what it takes to win in Montreal. And that always made me feel so proud, you know, so focused on the task at hand. It was this reminder that I was a part of something bigger than myself.

I’ll be thinking about how I was able to make a real, adult life for myself, in the best way possible, in Montreal: with my wife Katia and I starting our family, and then really all of us becoming such an active part of this incredible community.

And I’ll be thinking about how, the truth is, it probably was the right time to move on — for both the Canadiens and for me. And I think that’s all you can ask for really, in this business, when it comes time for a trade to happen. You just hope that both sides can come out a winner. And I hope that’s what happened here: I hope the Habs got some of the youth they need to start on the road toward building their next contender. And I hope the Golden Knights got, in what I bring to the table, exactly what they need to finish the process of building their first Stanley Cup champion.

But like I said — and even putting all of that aside: this trade is still going to be a lot to process. It was always going to be a lot. And I think that’s also what I meant about, you know, kind of “needing” the reaction that I got from my boys. Because I think Lorenzo and Maximus, in the end, just by being so young, and so uncomplicated by everything, they kind of managed to figure out the perfect perspective here. Which is, Hey: We’re going to the team from last year’s playoffs, the one with those cool-looking black and gold jerseys — and that’s awesome.

We’re doing this.

WE’RE GOING TO VEGAS.

Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI/Getty Images

And that reaction of theirs, what it really gets at, to me — all jokes about the boys’ NHL logo sheets aside — is this very real idea of, like, what it means to take on a new adventure in life. Of what it means to be a part of something that’s new, and good, and yours.

It’s funny, because, having worn the C for the Habs…. it really doesn’t get any more steeped in tradition than that. That’s basically the pinnacle of, you know, becoming this piece within the larger puzzle of a celebrated hockey lineage. And I cherished it, and it was the truest honor. But at the same time: that experience, it’s definitely…. on a certain end of the spectrum of things. And I think it makes you carry these certain inherited pressures with you, that aren’t necessarily your own…. and maybe even think in certain inherited ways that aren’t necessarily your own.

But then with the Golden Knights, it’s like, things are on the whole other end of that spectrum. Because who could even know what to think? It’s an NHL team in Vegas — and I say that in the very best sense. It’s all new everything. It’s a blank slate.

Last season, we didn’t get to play in Las Vegas until later in the second half — so at first all I really knew about it as a hockey town was from word of mouth. But man…. that word of mouth. It was something. I’m telling you, like — the way that guys were describing it to me, in texts and stuff, after playing there for the first time? It was so over-the-top I thought I might be getting ribbed.

Dude, you’ve gotta see it.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.

The place is like an alternate universe.

After a few messages like these, I remember texting Davey Desharnais — he’s a former teammate of mine, and he’d just played one on the road in Vegas that night. And I feel like Davey’s a straight shooter, so in my mind I’m just like, alright…. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. And I go, “Davey — are these guys for real, with all this Vegas talk?”

And he’s just like, “Honestly? It’s going to blow your mind.”

And it did. When we finally played in Vegas in February, it was exactly like the guys had said: unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. We were way out of playoff contention at the time, so the details of the game itself are kind of a blur. But my biggest memory is just us getting out there for warmups…. and feeling this place, like, shake beneath us with excitement. Or shake might not even be the right word for it — it was something past shake. Maybe it’s more like quake…. the place was quaking. It was like that level of volume, those sort of soundwaves, where you can feel it right under your skin. And I remember us just taking it all in, and sort of turning to each other, one by one, as we’re starting our skate, like, What…. IS this? Where…. ARE we? This is…. RIDICULOUS.

The whole flight back, that’s all the guys were talking about: that atmosphere, and those fans, and the show they’d just put on. I called Katia immediately after the game, and I’m like, “You’re not going to believe what it’s like in Vegas. You’re seriously not going to. It’s unbelievable. I mean — it’s truly insane.” (Looking back, I guess that was kind of a good omen, right? How I’m not even on the team yet, and already they’ve got me handing out the brochures, and making the hard sell to my wife.)

And then, of course, it’s like I was mentioning earlier: There was that playoff run.

I’m a fan of the game first, and our sons are falling in love with it fast — so we watched a lot of playoff hockey this year. And Vegas, man, just everything about them…. I’m telling you: the boys took to them like that. They were just the most exciting team to watch — and I’m saying that for me and the boys both. Lorenzo and Maximus thought they were so cool: the sweaters, the showmanship, the black and gold, the Vegas attitude, really the whole vibe. But in a lot of ways it was the same for me: not the colors and all of that, necessarily, but just like — watching those guys create this brand new energy together on the ice, almost a style all of their own. It’s like they were making this whole new thing….. from scratch. No lineage, no tradition.

They weren’t renting or buying some house from the guys who came before them. This was their house, you know? They were building it.

Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, I’ve gotten very close with Paul Stastny. He’s a great guy — and it’s just been one of those really cool friendships, where you both have a ton in common: we’ve always been on Team USA together, and our wives have become good friends, and even our parents have become good friends now. So it’s just always been this special bond, that the two of us have had — to the point where I would really consider Paul less of a “hockey friend,” and more just one of my good friends, period.

And this summer, as you probably heard, Paul was a free agent. But for as curious as I was about where he would end up…. he’s a tough read. And he has a way of playing things pretty close to the vest. So he hadn’t really given me any indication.

Or that is until one day, out of the blue — when I get a text from him.

“Going to Vegas.”

Going to Vegas. I had to sit with that for a second.

Shortly after, it’s officially announced.

It really happened that quickly.

And man….. it’s just funny how stuff works out, sometimes, you know?

Because now Paul — who’s first of all my best friend in the league, but then also happens to be this great center who, just purely from a hockey perspective, I’d love to play with…. now he’s signed with Vegas? And then you combine it with how I’ve been feeling about the Golden Knights as a franchise, already, and my admiration for all that they’ve been building, and doing….. I mean, as a player, obviously, you don’t control where it is you’re being traded to. But it was hard for me not to put all of those pieces together, in that moment, and just think about how, O.K. — well, if a trade was going to go down…. it would be pretty sweet if I could end up out West, building this cool thing with Paulie and Flower and them.

But that was all the way back in July — when the idea of actually playing for Vegas still seemed mostly surreal.

Now it’s September. And it’s happening…. for real.

Which, of course, now makes everything else real, as well. Everything that’s so exciting — and everything that’s bittersweet.

I want to give my sincerest thanks, again, to the people of Montreal and beyond, and to the Canadiens organization and its amazing fans, for always treating me right, always having my back, and really, finally, becoming nothing less than a group of people to call family — and a place to call home. It’s been such an honor to play for you, and even more of an honor to be your Captain. This city has a permanent piece of my heart.

I also want to give many thanks, in advance, to my brand new home of Las Vegas, and to the Golden Knights organization and its fans — for welcoming me with such open arms, and for making me already feel like such a genuine part of things.

And anyway, that’s really the gist here of what I wanted to say. I’m usually pretty bad at introductions, and icebreakers, and those sorts of formalities — but I went ahead and workshopped this one with the boys, so hopefully it’s alright:

What’s up, Vegas—

We’re Max, Katia, Lorenzo, Maximus, and James Pacioretty — plus one more on the way. We’re a family of six, and we’re in this together. Some of our interests include: NHL team logos, NHL team jerseys, hockey, and playoff hockey.

We’re jacked about this next adventure.

We’ll see you all soon.

Max Pacioretty
Vegas Golden Knights