Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty sat down with XN Sports writer Sean Hartnett to speak exclusively about his childhood idols, his pride of being an alternate captain for the Habs and how meeting the legendary Jean Beliveau changed him.
Growing us as a New York Rangers fan in New Canaan, C.T., Max Pacioretty spent much of his youth traveling to Madison Square Garden with his father, Raymond.
“I was always a fan of the Rangers,” Pacioretty said. “They were always going after the big names. I was a fan of Mark Messier, Theo Fleury, Eric Lindros. I liked Mike York a lot. I wore no. 16 in youth. I liked Pavel Bure when he was there.”
Pacioretty watched closely as the stars in blue, red and white glided across the ice, hoping that one day he would emulate his heroes.
“I took a lot of pride in being a Rangers fan,” Pacioretty said. “After 1994, I had a lot of fun rooting for them. It was always fun to see the star players come in. It helped me learn a lot about the game.”
After starring for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers and committing to play for the University of Michigan, he pulled on a white, blue and red sweater at the 2007 NHL Draft held in Columbus. It was an Original Six sweater, but not that of the Rangers.
The Rangers had taken an exciting Russian prospect, winger Alexei Cherepanov at pick no. 17. Up stepped the Canadiens at no. 22. Pacioretty’s name was called. He strolled onto the podium, shook the hand of then-general manager Bob Gainey and donned the bleu, blanc et rouge of the famous Canadiens.
It was then that the history lesson began.
“I wasn’t as familiar with the history as I am now,” Pacioretty said. “Once I got drafted, it was a bit of a history lesson. I learned more and more as a lot of the legends rolled in and out of the locker room. It’s amazing to be a part of it.”
At 26, Pacioretty has become a beloved figure in the city of Montreal. The 6-foot-2 winger has a knack for scoring game-winning goals with his wicked wrister. Pacioretty has collected 40 points (23 goals, 17 assists) through 49 games this season. He has already notched five game-winning goals.
In mid-September, the Canadiens opted to name four alternate captains following the departure of Brian Gionta to the Buffalo Sabres. Wearing the ‘A’ on the front of his jersey is a new experience and a huge honor for Pacioretty.
“Wearing a letter this year, I take a lot of pride in being a leader on a team with such a great history,” Pacioretty said. “So many legends have played here and come before me.”
On Dec. 2, all of Quebec mourned the passing of iconic center Jean Beliveau. The opportunity of meeting and conversing with Beliveau making a big impact on Pacioretty. The 26-year-old is growing into a dressing room leader and knows that Beliveau’s gentlemanly example is the perfect model to follow.
“Meeting him definitely changed me,” Pacioretty said. “It changed me as a teammate. Since that day, I’ve really taken it to heart and tried to incorporate a lot of the leadership qualities that you heard about him when he played and even after he retired.
“I think he gave so much to the community and to the city. He was a great teammate and a great leader. I’m just trying to learn more about him and incorporate that into my own game.”