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Golden Knights Turn To Cirque du Soleil For Edge

The Golden Knights added longtime Cirque Director of Performance Medicine Jay Mellette to the team's staff

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

If you can say one thing about Golden Knights general manager George McPhee, it's this: the man isn't afraid to think outside the box to gain a competitive advantage.

Employ a deep-reaching level of advanced analytics? Check. Hire non-sports "interview" specialists to help his hockey operations staff get better at delving deeper into the psychological makeup of players? Check.

Whether it's hiring 25-year-old scouts or a pro hockey outsider whose claim to fame is launching his own independent website to help evaluate players, McPhee has shown a willingness in his early days as Vegas GM to revolt against the status quo when building our team.

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The latest of these seemingly unconventional decisions came on Monday, when he hired Jay Mellette as the team's new Director of Sports Performance and Head Athletic Trainer.

RELATED: Mellette joins Golden Knights

"Trainers and sports performance staff play a vital role in the success of any professional team and we are excited to have Jay help direct our efforts in this area," McPhee said.


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"Jay possesses a truly unique sports performance and leadership background."

Unique is one way to put it. Although to say that Mellette challenges the Dos Equis' spokesman as the Most Interesting Man in the World wouldn't be much of an exaggeration.

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Mellette joins the Golden Knights from Cirque du Soleil, and is a veteran of the United States Air Force. #BoldInGold 

His experience spans the globe. It includes alternative medicines and acrobats, the military and middle schools.

Mellette's Renaissance Man background was most recently as the Director of Performance Medicine at Cirque du Soleil. In this position, he oversaw the care of more than 1,200 performers in more than 40 countries, at times even studying Chinese medicine to keep the world's most death-defying acrobats on stage.

Years before, Mellette was Special Operations in Desert Storm for the U.S. Air Force.

At different points between these ventures, Mellette was the Head Athletic Trainer for MLS's Colorado Rapids, practiced at Florida State and worked in Denver's public schools.

"When I look at my experience working in professional soccer, and with professional acrobats, I feel I'm blessed to have 17 years' experience working with international athletes and international coaches," Mellette said. "And hockey is an international sport."

"So for me, I think that ability I have that ability to work in a multicultural environment, and to understand how culture impacts training and how culture impacts your health. To be able to work with that is going to be an opportunity for me to take this package of experiences and bring them with me to the organization. That's just one way that I think my past eclectic experiences is going to be a benefit in a multicultural sport."


Tweet from @GoldenKnights: "His experience in the Armed Forces will impact our organization in a meaningful way." --McPhee on Mellette. #BoldInGold


But will Mellette be training hockey players to do backflips?

"I think there are some transferables," Mellette said. "I've been working with acrobats that are hypermobile. There are such a range of movements that acrobats have to go through to be able to perform. It's going to be a transition from working with hypermobile athletes to hockey players, who are hypomobile athletes.

"How things are going to transfer over, I am not entirely sure. I am going into this with an open mind."

We'll take that as "backflips to be determined."

It's also worth noting that as much as this hire was made by George McPhee, that Senior Vice President Murray Craven also played an integral role.

Before officially joining the Vegas franchise, Craven, a former 18-year NHL veteran, was one of the personal advisers for owner Bill Foley, his longtime Montana neighbor.

Craven assisted Foley in numerous decisions in the organization's beginning days, even beginning in this capacity before Vegas even officially received its team.

Part of Craven's early initiative was immersing himself into the Vegas community, both with locals and powerful business people in the area. During this process of surveying the community on Foley's behalf, Craven was referred over to Mellette, planting an early seed of the relationship that eventually led to today's hiring.

"This was really a relationship that started then," Mellette said. "The more and more Murray and I spent time together, the more we started to realize there might be something there.


Tweet from @GoldenKnights: "Jay possesses a truly unique sports performance and leadership background."--McPhee #BoldInGold


"This really is a once in a career opportunity. It's such an opportunity to build a department, and building a team and a culture."

From standing tucks to hockey pucks, Mellette is the Golden Knights' guy.

Even though this transition from handstands on a box to outside the box might seem unconventional, McPhee's seemingly unprecedented approach is well calculated.

The approach is that McPhee's staff has a wealth of hockey knowledge. But by incorporating an outside voice from a different walk of life that produced some of the most awe-inspiring physical performers around, that there might be an edge Vegas can acquire by hiring Mellette.

"It's such a rare opportunity," Mellette said. "For me, I feel blessed and I'm excited."

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