Bright lights, casinos and home for Golden Knights
LAS VEGAS (AP) Pierre-Edouard Bellemare didn't know what to do as he browsed in the grocery store. Fans were admiring the native Frenchman and center for the Vegas Golden Knights, but he had become star-struck himself.
''I'm pretty sure I saw Steffi Graf,'' Bellemare said. ''I was on the phone with my mom, and I was like (gasps for air). I walked right behind her. I didn't say anything, too shy.''
Just your random day away from the bright lights of Vegas in Summerlin, roughly 20 minutes from The Strip. And Bellemare loves his new surroundings.
''Going to your grocery shop, everything is kind of convenient,'' Bellemare said. ''You get a habit of getting your routine done simple. Right now, with the newborn, the weather and the pool has been something we've been enjoying quite a lot.''
Many members of the Golden Knights had no idea what living in Las Vegas would entail when they were selected in the expansion draft for the fledgling team. In less than a year, however, they've found their new home is much more than casinos and glitzy shows.
Jonathan Marchessault said he enjoys a night out with his wife, either attending a show or having dinner at one of the many resorts on The Strip, but he also enjoys taking his kids to the team's practice facility to skate, or to swimming lessons when time permits. The team, after all, has made a historic run to the Stanley Cup Final, with Game 1 at home coming up Monday night against the Washington Capitals.
''Like everybody what they think, you think of The Strip, you think of all the nightlife and everything but there's a lot more,'' Marchessault said. ''There's actually a lot of people living here and the community where we live, it's unbelievable. The people are nice and respectful. I've been in a few cities in my career and this is definitely one of the classiest places.''
David Perron, who admitted he too was surprised that life existed away from Las Vegas Boulevard, said he recently enjoyed showing his visiting parents Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
''You grow up and all you hear about Vegas is The Strip and just think that's what it is, there's nothing else to see,'' Perron said. ''It's pretty eye-opening to see outside of it.''
Coach Gerard Gallant reiterated his players' sentiments, having become a local celebrity right along with them.
''I told the people the other day if I keep coming here and you're gonna pay for my breakfast I'm not coming back,'' Gallant said with a laugh. ''They're great people and they're a lot of fun. Everybody recognizes you and I didn't really expect that. Myself and my wife, we love Vegas, it's been awesome. We go to The Strip anytime you want to go there, you go down there for dinner, but besides that we're out here in Summerlin and we love it.''
Some of the younger players, like roommates Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch, don't mind taking advantage of the spectacles and endless events that Sin City has to offer.
''The shows are unbelievable,'' Tuch said. ''I've met a couple of the cast (members), I met Criss Angel, there's deejays and artists coming in and out of the city, so I've met a lot of cool people like that. The food is fantastic around here. And if you get away from the city you can play on some really nice golf courses too, which I like to do.''
Said Theodore: ''I think my favorite part about Vegas is the different kinds of food you can get. We've been very lucky to have some good connections with a lot of restaurants in town. Rooming with Tuchy, he's got some good connections.''
General manager George McPhee said he's come to appreciate the maturity of the players as they adapted to living in Las Vegas, with all the temptations and distractions.
''It's a high-character group,'' McPhee said. ''We don't want a bunch of clones, we've never wanted a bunch of clones, either in the front office or anywhere else in the organization. They're all different, they have different lifestyles at home. There's something for everyone to do in Vegas, so they do what they do. But when we come to the rink that's where they become one.''
More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals