Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s first trip to Las Vegas was a colossal bust. In 2013, the French-born winger’s Skellefteå AIK won the Swedish Hockey League championship, and the team splurged with a weeklong trip to Vegas. Upon arriving at the airport, Belle-mare was told that his passport — which didn’t have a necessary biometric chip — was no good. So instead, he spent the week holed up at his mother’s house in France. Naturally, it rained every day.
Nearly every teammate can relate. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was dumped by the Penguins, for whom he won 375 games (and three Stanley Cups) over 13 seasons. A tad short for scouts’ liking, 5-foot-9 center Jonathan Marchessault toiled with two clubs before breaking out with 30 goals for the Panthers last season. Defenseman Nate Schmidt spent a chunk of last season sitting in the press box as the Capitals’ seventh defenseman.
While his lack of spot shooting kills offensive flow at times, Fultz can have an impact off the ball by staying active as a cutter, playing off the Sixers’ many talented passers.
Brett Brown uses Fultz’s big body as a screener to spring Redick and Belinelli, and Philly could get even more creative with ways to get Fultz on the move to the rim. He’s still learning how to play with more urgency off the ball, but there’s certainly potential there.
But flu or no flu, the Knights are acutely aware of the skepticism that comes from being the first major league sports team in Las Vegas. Well before the season, team ownership doubled down on securing a fan base. In August, two months before puck drop, the Knights rented a 45-foot bus, slathered it with black decals and their team logo, and drove more than 1,000 miles from the city. On a four-day tour, they hosted open skates and meet and greets in towns like Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and Whitefish, Montana — not exactly hockey hotbeds but territory the Knights claimed in their TV distribution rights. “There’s no professional sports team that attacks that marketplace, that’s involved in that marketplace,” owner Bill Foley says. “So we can be their team.”