LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alex Pietrangelo spoke of sacrifice Sunday, and what it takes for a hockey player to continue his journey this far into an NHL season.
With the Vegas Golden Knights up 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, all the players’ personal lives are put on hold for the moment. Summer vacation can wait.
For Pietrangelo, sacrifice is nothing new. In November, it was his career that came to a brief halt.
During Thanksgiving, one of his triplets, 5-year-old daughter Evelyn, came down with the flu. It developed into encephalitis, an inflammation of tissues of the brain, and she lost control of her motor skills.
“And basically slept for 10 straight days,” Pietrangelo said. “Life can change like that. Sometimes you take things for granted and sometimes things like that happen and it kind of puts you back on your rear end and says, ‘Be grateful for what you have.’”
With the full support of the organization, Pietrangelo paused his career and wasn’t sure what he’d do until he knew his daughter had recovered from the ordeal.
“That was the first time I’ve ever even thought about coming back to play. Like, it wasn’t even a question,” he said. “I wasn’t gonna go back until I was ready to go back. Until I knew she was good, my wife was good, and the other three (kids) were good, I wasn’t gonna go back. So, I went back when I felt like I was ready.”
Pietrangelo credited his wife, Jayne, for being the rock through everything. She continued to hold down the household, and they prayed daily while their daughter recovered.
After a positive reaction to “a course of treatment” that helped eliminate a brain lesion one week later, Evelyn returned home within a month.
Pietrangelo said his daughter is doing better.
“It’ll take a couple years to get back to where we think she should be, but physically, she’s good,” he said.
His return to the lineup in December was certainly welcome, too. He’s become a cornerstone of the blueliners since the Golden Knights signed him to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract in October 2020.
He finished the regular season fifth on the team with 54 points — 11 goals, 43 assists — and is currently tied for eighth on the team with nine points in the playoffs with a goal and eight assists.
“Seeing what he’s been through, the way he’s overcome some of those adversities is awesome to see,” Shea Theodore said. “He’s been a backbone and we’re really excited for him. The way he’s been playing has been good and hopefully him and everyone can kind of keep it up.”
And it’s more than stats with Pietrangelo. It’s more about efficiently using his team-leading average of 23:43 ice time. He has become someone coach Bruce Cassidy can count on to defend hard, clear the front of the net or make an effort to block shots on a consistent basis.
Cassidy, who was coach of the Boston Bruins when they lost to Pietrangelo and the Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, is glad they’re on the same team this go-round.
“He’s a high-effort player,” Cassidy said Sunday “He’s certainly got skill and makes his plays. … I thought he was a little more the offensive-tilted guy, but he’s a full 200-foot guy: penalty kill, he’s one of the first guys over the boards, tends to clear the puck exceptionally well. Complete player. Harder player, I guess, than maybe I would have suspected watching him.
“I thought he was more the dynamic guy making the plays, but I think he does it all at both ends.”
Now vying for his second Stanley Cup ring in five years, Pietrangelo is again lending credit and recognizing Jayne as the underlying strength for his family, as the mother of their children and as the wife of an NHL player.
“I think my wife has had to sacrifice her time and energy more than I have — she gets it,” he said. “She’s been down this road, so without her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now and during the season. It’s special.
“The triplets were able to sit in the Stanley Cup and they know what’s going on now, and now I’ve got my youngest. She wasn’t born yet, so it’s another opportunity to share that with another child. It’s a pretty special thing at this time of the year.”
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports