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Going back to Cali

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – With family members aplenty residing in Northern California, Max Pacioretty should have strong fan support at the SAP Center on Monday night.

His maternal grandmother, Guadalupe, will be making the trip from San Francisco to San Jose to support her grandson as the Canadiens begin a four-game road swing with three straight contests in the Golden State.

While Guadalupe has seen the Canadiens’ No. 67 ply his trade in San Jose before, this will obviously be the first time she’ll have the opportunity to watch him go about his business in person sporting the “C” on his sweater. The Habs’ captain has a great deal of admiration for his grandmother on a number of levels.

“Our family has been through a lot. We weren’t handed everything we have. My grandma played an important part in developing the mentality that my family has. Growing up in very, very rough times in Mexico, and then coming to San Francisco when my mom was eight years old, I think she kind of instilled in everyone what’s really important in life,” shared Pacioretty, who also respects Guadalupe’s positive outlook on life and leadership ability, too.

“She lives every day to the fullest. She tells anybody that she meets – ‘This is the best day of my life. I’m so happy to be alive. I’m so happy to have such a great family.’ I know that wore off on everyone in the family,” added Pacioretty. “Everyone looks at her as a leader. To be able to show her that I can be the leader of my family and my team is definitely an honor. The first time I actually wore the “A” was in San Jose, so this will be nice with my grandmother there.”

Pacioretty’s paternal grandmother, Thérèse, meanwhile, calls Santa Rosa, CA home. A Montreal native and a fervent supporter of the CH, she keeps up with the latest NHL news and watches Canadiens games on TV at every opportunity to stay as informed as possible about Max and her hometown team.

“My dad tells us she’s always been a fan of the team, so we have some of that in our blood. I know that when she follows us during the season, she’s got the mindset of a true Montreal Canadiens fan. She really enjoys the game and being involved,” said Pacioretty. “For her to see her grandson play for the Habs, I know it’s very, very special. I know it means a lot to her with her ties to Montreal.”

Should the New Canaan, CT native light the lamp at the Shark Tank, Guadalupe won’t be the only one smiling from ear to ear. Aunts, uncles and cousins will likely also be on site to cheer the 27-year-old on in a part of the country that has always held a special place in his heart.

“It’s always extra special being there. I love going to see my family. I don’t get to see them often being so far away, so this is something I look forward to every season. Everybody in my family is based there – the San Francisco area, the Palo Alto area, and Woodside, too. My dad’s side of the family is up near Napa in Healdsburg,” said Pacioretty, who is eager to make up for lost time with as many relatives as possible over the next couple of days. “Growing up, whenever we had family trips, I often had hockey tournaments so I wasn’t able to go. As hockey picked up and got serious, I couldn’t see my family in California as much as I did when I was younger. This gives me a chance to do that, even if it’s just a short visit. To see hockey take off there makes it even more special for me also.”

Those childhood trips solidified Pacioretty’s California connection forever. His parents, Ray and Ana, actually met in California while attending separate high schools in San Francisco before the pair went on to the University of California, Berkeley to pursue higher education. Even though they eventually settled in New York and Connecticut – where Pacioretty was born in November 1988 – they did their best to ensure their children maintained close ties with family members on the West Coast. It’s safe to say those bonds are as strong as ever before.

“When we get together, we always say that we just sit around and laugh. That’s just the sign of a very strong family. It’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to all grow up together. They all get together very, very often, so it’s tough sometimes to be left out from things. But, we’re always in the loop with e-mail, text and phone calls. We talk a lot. My dad keeps in touch with everyone on a daily basis,” said Pacioretty, who has fond memories of family gatherings in California over the years. “When we go out there, we always have a great time. We just sit around and eat a lot of food. That’s our family in a nutshell – good food and a good time together.”

Leaving San Jose with two points in the bank on Monday night would make this season’s trek to Silicon Valley particularly sweet, especially because the Canadiens have dropped their last eight visits to the rink along W Santa Clara St. Their last victory there dates back to November 1999 when Pacioretty was just 11 years old. Snapping that streak this time around would really be the icing on the cake.

“I don’t know what it is [about that place]. They’re a big team. They win a lot of draws. But, it’s always a good challenge to try to break the mindset and mold of not being able to play in a building,” said Pacioretty. “It gives you a little extra motivation to go out there and play against a big, strong team and try to get the win ourselves.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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