One morning last week there was some crying going on in Max Pacioretty's house over all-star selections, but the tears weren't from the guy who actually plays in the NHL. Although the argument could be made the 31-year-old winger with the Vegas Golden Knights has been well within his rights over the years to throw a bit of a tantrum.
Since the beginning of his first full NHL season (2011-12), Pacioretty has scored 248 goals which ranks tied for eighth amongst all skaters during that time. Such are the vagaries of the NHL all-star system that every player on that list, tied or above Pacioretty, has been invited to the midseason event at least once. So have the 14 players below him.
Pacioretty is alone among that group to have never skated in an NHL All-Star Game. That will finally change later this month when Pacioretty laces up his skates for Team Pacific at the league's showcase in St. Louis.
"You don't think that way until you're a little bit older and know everything happens for a reason. It's definitely very cool that my family gets to experience it," explained Pacioretty, who along with his wife Katia will bring four sons in tow to St. Louis. "I had the same mindset as everyone else where if it happens it happens, but then I woke up one morning and my oldest son was watching the NHL Network and he asked me if I was going to make the team. I said probably not bud, and he got pretty upset and told me he really wanted me to make it. That was when I realized it'd be pretty cool if I could take my family and kids there to experience that. That is the real reason why I was pretty excited about getting the nod, for my family and kids to experience that."
Pacioretty is seated in his stall following a hard skate in Buffalo. Teammates Paul Stastny and Ryan Reaves flank him. And both are listening in to the interview. Self-deprecation is default for hockey players. But with a chirp artist like Reaves on one side and a very good friend in Stastny on the other, Pacioretty was careful is choosing his words. Didn't work as both men got in their digs from time to time.
"Yeah in the past I was always kind of stuck behind a couple other guys on the [Montreal Canadiens] that were very good and had to go. Carey Price was a staple every year, P.K. Subban was a staple and once Shea Weber came he was a staple too," said Pacioretty, who leads Vegas in goals (20) and points (45) this season. "Obviously with the way that teams are selected, there are obviously rules as to who can go with a guy from each team. Mark Stone said it best, if I had gone before then I wouldn't have been able to experience my first time with my kids. Not just being with my kids, but them being able to understand and know what it is and what it means. I told my son that I was going to be on Connor McDavid's team and his eyes lit up like he saw a ghost. I told him I better still be his favorite player after that, but it is pretty cool to see that they know the players now and they watch NHL Network every morning and see the highlights. It'll be really cool with them."
The Paciorettys have four sons, Enzo (6), Max (4), James (2) and Michael (1). Pacioretty can be seen from time to time hauling hockey bags with a bunch of little 67's following him around.
"They're obsessed with hockey. No exaggeration, they play from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep. It's really cool to see," said Pacioretty, who grew up in Connecticut. "Enzo and Max play on the same team. So they're kind of at the same level where Max keeps up with his older brother. And they talk about, well, they sleep in the same room and I wouldn't call it sleep. They stay up and talk about hockey all night. They both understand what's going on. There is a fine line between a crazy hockey dad and just having fun with them, but it is a lot of fun because they love it. If I tell them they can't go to the rink they start crying. It is a real true, genuine love for the game that reminds me of myself. I see myself in them from when I was a kid just wanting to go out there and have fun. We went to the park the other day, a park that has a street hockey rink, as an adult it looked like the least amount of fun in the world, but then I thought back to doing that my entire childhood. As you mentioned, they have the bug and it is a lot of fun to see, but I definitely don't want to push them and be that type of parent. I try to battle with that often."
The All-Star Weekend has a host of experiences for players and their families. From the skills competition to gift experiences to the game itself. Pacioretty is looking forward to having a relaxed time and to letting his kids get behind the ropes.
"I think the bye week is a rest no matter what, probably in my eyes a little too long of a rest, so it's still going to have some down time. But it's definitely something I've always wanted to experience at least once, as I mentioned my family as well. I don't expect it to be too taxing on the body, or too hard. It's more of a time to go have fun, and like my kids, just go out there and have fun just playing the game with no real pressure, which doesn't happen too often. You don't get too many scenarios like that, just kind of in the summer and skating with your buddies. But this is a good example of that."