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Checking in with Max Pacioretty

Forward shares family stories, tv recommendations during the pause

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

Thirty goals in a season in today's NHL is an elite mark. A player who can score 30 today would have been a 50-goal scorer in times other than the current dead puck era. Max Pacioretty is in the midst of authoring his sixth 30-goal campaign and sat 13th in the NHL with 32 markers when the league was paused. After a few seasons of injury and strife, the 31-year-old is back among the best in the world when it comes to putting the puck in the net. The Connecticut native has scored 280 goals since joining the NHL in the 2008-09 season which ranks 20th amongst all players in that span. Since 2011, his first full season in the NHL, to the present; Pacioretty ranks eighth in goals with 260 in 640 games.

Pacioretty has been paired with Mark Stone for most of their mutual time with the Vegas Golden Knights and it's been a fine match. In February, head coach Pete DeBoer put William Karlsson between them and immediately they became one of the top lines in the NHL. Complete and dominant with a mix of size, speed, creativity and finish. DeBoer would be quite justified in the confidence to put them out against any trio in the NHL. The line combined for a 66-36 advantage in scoring chances during their time together and held a 34-13 edge in high danger chances while scoring four goals and allowing just two. An injury to Stone cut short their time together but the glimpse we got of the threesome was telling as they had a 69.1 percent share of expected goals which ranked fourth among all NHL lines with 100-plus minutes together.

Pacioretty, his wife Katia and their four sons, recently learned a fifth child will soon be joining the house. The boys were happy to announce on social media they're getting a little sister. The family has spent their time social distancing at their Las Vegas home and Pacioretty says it's been busy and fun.

Here's Pacioretty in his own words:

Gary Lawless: How are you doing?
Max Pacioretty: Good, time has kind of been flying by for me. I've been training on my own when I can at home. I built a little gym and that helps the recovery process since I went into this a little bit injured. I'm trying to do what I can to get better and make sure that if and when we start that I'm ready to go.

GL: If the league declares it's safe to play, is there any situation where you wouldn't want to play?
MP: All we can really do is take care of ourselves right now. All we can control right now is staying in as good of game shape as possible. We as players, and I can only speak for myself and really for my team, we've really reiterated to the group that we have to give ourselves every opportunity to come back and play some good hockey at a high level if they declare that it's safe to do so. I trust the people who are going to make those decisions and us as players can really only worry about trying to stay in as good of shape as possible for performances when we get back but also for the health of the individual players themselves.

GL: What if the return to the ice happens to be in the middle of the summer?
MP: I mean, if we had to wait six months and play in Antarctica, I'd be willing to do that. We have a special group. We want to do whatever we can to finish out this year because we feel we have a group that's capable of doing special things and it's up to us as a group to try and achieve that when we do get started.

GL: What went through your mind when it became clear this wasn't going to be a short pause and that the entire season was potentially in peril?
MP: It's definitely weird. It's something that I never thought - looking back on it maybe should have been a little more prepared with what was going on elsewhere in the world, but still it never even crossed my mind. I definitely was upset, and I always try to stop myself from thinking the worst-case scenario. I still catch myself trying to stop those thoughts from entering my mind. That being said it's really out of my control as a player. It's just important for us to focus on what we can control and that's staying in shape and having that glass half full mentality, trusting that we will be able to finish up this year.

GL: Your sons are getting a sister. How do you feel about that as a family?

MP: I'm very excited. I'm definitely a big family man myself and I know that me and my wife, Katia, love being able to spend this time with our four boys right now and it's going to be really special to have the addition to our family of a baby girl. It's going to be something that we're not going to be used to at first, it's going to be a whole new dynamic. The good news is the older brothers are ready to protect her and we've already had those talks as to their role as big brother to their baby sister.

GL: What was Katia's reaction when she found out she was having a girl?
MP: The way she told me was she handed me a box and it had a Golden Knights little dress. I was wondering why she even had that, but she said it was just in case one day we did have a girl. We were both really, really excited but obviously it's special for a mom to have that bond with a baby girl.

GL: I know your boys are crazy about hockey. Will you make sure they don't stick her in net right away?
MP: I don't know if it'll be too much hockey. It might be tennis for her because that's what my wife played growing up. They've done a good job with their baby brothers being gentle and we've kind of expressed that you've got to be gentle with the baby girl so hopefully they listen and if not there will be some serious consequences.

GL: That's five kids. Does that give you the lead on the team?
MP: (Jonathan) Marchessault has four and so does (Nick) Holden. Lots of kids on the team so it's a big family in our locker room. Lots of the kids are friends and go to the same school and it makes it even more special.

GL: What is it like to have so many kids on the team?
MP: It's amazing. I love the chaos. I love coming home and trying to sleep and kids are screaming and running around. I'm just used to the chaos right now and I think a lot of my teammates are in the same boat. It's special because Vegas is just a great place to raise a family. Who knows if these guys would have had all these kids or not if they weren't playing in Vegas? It's just a really logical place with great weather obviously, great place to live, great schools. It makes a lot of sense for guys wanting to have big families here because it's a great place for kids to grow up.

GL: Why have you performed so well this season?
MP: Last year I ran into some injury problems and this year, up until this last injury, I've been pretty healthy. I think guys play kind of banged up every year whether people know it or not, so I don't want to use that excuse because 90 percent of the league is banged up all year. So it's been health and feeling really comfortable with where I'm at. I feel like I belong here. After that one year under my belt and after a good playoffs, I think I felt much more comfortable within the team. It kind of helped me get off to a fast start individually and I've just kind of maintained that throughout the year.

GL: What is it like playing with Karlsson and Stone?
MP: I think what's really impressive about it is oftentimes, top guys can't play with other top guys. You see it so often around the league. They play so similar to each other that they have a hard time playing with each other. I think what's really neat is the three of us play differently and we all add different elements to the line and that's also allowed us to have success as a line and individually as well. It's just an absolute privilege to play with those two because playing with me or not, they've had a lot of success in the league. The fact that I've been paired up with them and we've all found success as well, it feels good personally but we also know that we can help the team win every night and that's ultimately what's most important.

GL: What do you miss on the ice about hockey?
MP: Oh man, I miss it so much. I love every minute of spending time with my family, but I spend time with them and we bond over hockey, regardless of if I'm playing or not. When I'm at home we play hockey all day. We shoot pucks, we stick handle, we go roller blading, but I really miss competing. I miss going to The Fortress and playing in front of our fans. It kind of puts things in perspective that you never want to hang up the skates. You want to keep playing as long as you can, and hopefully this experience will make me remember it.

GL: What do you miss about your teammates?
MP: We've been communicating a lot. Obviously we're not able to see each other, but I've been talking to a lot of my teammates on a daily basis with technology and FaceTime and group calls and group chats. It's obviously not the same as going to the rink everyday with your buddies and competing, but we have such a good bond with this group and this team. It's such a great leadership group that trickles down to everyone. Being on the same page and everyone is communicating a lot. If we didn't have such a special bond on the ice, we wouldn't have the same bond off the ice. We're getting through and anticipating getting back to the rink and getting all together.

GL: What would a Stanley Cup mean to this season?
MP: I think this will be the hardest Stanley Cup to win out of all of them. Look at all the obstacles. Who knows when we're going to play, where, fans or no fans, everything is up in the air. With that being said, whatever teams that have been banged up are healing up right now. They're getting their bodies ready and you better believe everyone around the league is trying to get every advantage possible in terms of recovery and getting in whatever shape they can. Most teams go into the playoffs beat up, but that won't be the case this year. Guys are going to be healthy and teams are going to be able to show their true forms with pretty much every player on the roster. For me, I look at it as this will be one of the most special playoffs since I can remember. Teams aren't going to have any excuses. It's going to be your full team ready to rock and ready to go.

GL: How good is your team?
MP: We were playing some very, very good hockey up until the pause. That's with injuries, key guys out, a coaching change and learning new systems. We were playing some very strong hockey, probably by far our best since I've been here. That being said, it's up to us as players to come back after this break and pick up where we left off. It's going to take a lot of hard work to do so. Teams are going to have a little bit more time to study the way we've been playing. Coaches are probably going to look at tape of other teams right now and try to pick up habits. It's really important we pick up where we left off and start up even stronger again. To answer your question, we really like the team that we have. We feel they've done a great job of addressing every need to give us the resources and players to go compete for the ultimate prize. Now it's up to us to do it.

GL: Who is doing the cooking at your house?
MP: Not me, my wife. I've never cooked in my life. I actually put a couple steaks on and then she had to fix my mistakes. I'm done trying. I'm no good. Like I said, I tried and thought it maybe wasn't as hard as it looked, but she had to do damage control on the food that I did try to make. My mom (Anette) is here at the house as well. She was in California when this all happened, spending time with her family. She came out here because going back and forth would require a quarantine both ways. She decided to stay and help out with the kids. It's been a lot of work trying to get them organized. Obviously not going to school it's a lot more work and she's been a big help for us.

GL: Are you helping with the home schooling?
MP: Trying to. They are doing school online, but not really old enough to be doing too much significant stuff. We're doing that, but we're also trying to teach them some other stuff through hockey. Whenever we do writing or reading it just always seems to end up coming back to hockey. That is the only thing I really know and connections I can make in terms of teaching them. It always comes back to the Golden Knights and hockey. When they practice their writing, they practice writing "Paul Stastny" and "Marc-Andre Fleury" and "Chance." It's fun to have that kind of bond with them, but I don't know how good of a teacher I am.

GL: Are you enjoying small moments with family?
MP: Yeah absolutely. The bonds with my kids have grown even more special as this has gone on. I think me and my wife are trying to have the positive mindset of we'll always look back at this time and cherish it. We're stuck in the house all together, but we're so lucky to have the resources that we have. We live in a great area and love the house that we have here. It's great weather so we're able to get outside. Hasn't been anything negative about it on our front. We've been able to really have a great time together and develop some special bonds. If you're looking at it with a positive mindset, we'll one day look back and really cherish this time.

GL: Tiger King or Ozark?
MP: I've watched both. I've watched everything, you name it. Probably have watched a little too much, so I've been backing off some of it.

GL: Any show recommendations?
MP: I thought the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm was brilliant.

GL: First thing you want to do when we return to a normal lifestyle?
MP: I want to go play in a game with my teammates. Honestly there is not much else I want to do. I want to go to The Fortress and play a game. Everything else I have at home. I have my family and good weather so there isn't much else I want to do. Could golf up until about a week ago, but hockey is a lot more fun.

GL: Your message to hockey fans?
MP: This is a tough time right now for everybody. To take a step back and realize our relationship with our city and our fans. They've always been there to support us. I wasn't here year one obviously. I had heard about it and have experienced it last year and this year. This is definitely a tough time around the world for everyone. You have to imagine that whether it be economically or financially, it is a tough time for Vegas. So much entertainment, so many jobs on The Strip where people are going to be hurt by this. If we can take any motivation from this to give people hope, something to cheer for, help people out economically by bringing people to Vegas in the future and getting excited for our team. That motivates us as players. I think we have a special bond here with our fans and the city. It motivates us as players to do what we can to win for both ourselves and teammates, but also the people in Las Vegas, the fans that have been genuinely behind us since day one.

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