Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 | 2 a.m.
It wasn’t difficult for Las Vegans to get behind their Golden Knights during the first-year team’s incredible, improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals. And the community’s whole-hearted acceptance of the Knights allowed the city’s newest residents to get comfortable quickly.
“We realized very early on how important the team was to this community,” said forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a native of Paris suburb Le Blanc-Mesnil who played for three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before Vegas grabbed him in last year’s expansion draft. “You’d go to the store and see all these people wearing Golden Knights gear and it just made us all feel unified.”
Bellemare’s first year in Las Vegas was just as special off the ice as he and his wife, Hannah, welcomed their first child, Leandre, in January, giving new meaning to the Knights’ mantra of being “Vegas born.”
Today, Bellemare will create another connection with the community by spending more time with a group of people that have become special to his family in recent months — and by shaving his head. He’ll join patients from Comprehensive Cancer Centers at Toshiba Plaza on the Strip this afternoon to help raise awareness and help kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month by cutting off his hair, another symbol of unity. A donation also will be made to the American Cancer Society.
Bellemare has been spending time with patients at local Comprehensive clinics and stars alongside doctors and other staff members in a series of new commercials that have been broadcast during preseason games.
“I’ve seen several women and others going through that [hair loss due to chemotherapy] and really felt like being here, being part of that family and being able to talk to these patients, maybe some of them going through that could have a little easier time if they got to shave the head of someone else, someone on their team,” he said. “So of course I asked the permission of my wife first and she was excited about it. Maybe by doing this they can forget about some problems for a little bit and have a little fun.”
Like so many families, the Bellemares have experienced cancer. Hannah’s grandmother passed away two years ago after a decade-long battle with the disease that began with breast cancer, and her grandfather passed earlier after struggling with pancreatic cancer.
“Anything we can do to help brighten anyone’s day, any way we can help, that’s the best way we can spend our time,” Hannah said.
Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada is an award-winning multidisciplinary oncology group with 14 treatment centers and offices throughout Southern Nevada and has provided the community with its specialty services for more than 35 years.
“We do this for the patients, not so much for us,” Dr. Rupesh Parikh said of the partnership with the Bellemares. “It shows we’re part of the community, but it’s really for our patients who have beaten the odds and continue to beat the odds and the ones currently struggling. Events like this where we can partner with a player or get tickets to games are a good morale booster.”
Like the Golden Knights, the team at Comprehensive is a well-oiled machine, according to the Bellemares. As they spent time talking to patients and sharing stories, photos and hugs in between filming sessions, the smiles were contagious.
“It’s amazing that you can meet people and realize you can affect someone in just five minutes, help someone feel a little bit better because of this position we are in,” Bellemare said. “It’s an honor.”
He’s anxious to get back on the ice and get the season started on Thursday, but his wife is just as excited to continue learning about and contributing to the community.
“We were surprised at the way it feels so small, such a tight little community,” Hannah said. “All people know outside Las Vegas is the Strip and you think it’s going to be artificial but it’s the opposite. Everyone is so real and authentic and kind, and so many people come from other places, so it’s really interesting to meet them and hear their stories. This is really our first chance to do something to help and it’s such a great organization, and I hope it’s just the start.”