Vegas has often been lauded as a dream destination for NHL players, but former Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty didn't quite see it that way.
Pacioretty admitted he experienced a weird feeling shortly after being traded to the Golden Knights in 2018. It was something he hadn’t encountered previously in his lengthy NHL career.
“When I first got to Vegas, it was weird that there was, like, no accountability,” said Pacioretty. “And I’m not talking about in the team; I’m talking about like ever. You couldn’t feel pressure coming off anyone else, from the coach to the management.”
Prior to being traded to Sin City, Pacioretty had played his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens, spanning 10 seasons. He spent three of those campaigns as the franchise’s captain from 2015-18, which came with a ton of expectations.
As a result, the 2012 Bill Masterton Trophy winner needed to hold himself to a higher standard. While that was exhausting at times, it’s something he made sure to focus on after arriving in Las Vegas.
“There was a relief when I got there. But then I found myself being like, ‘I’ve got to reel this in and hold myself to a higher standard which I had always done.’ But maybe I got away from it when I had everyone else holding me accountable (in Montreal),” Pacioretty added.
It’s no secret that Canadian hockey fans hold their teams to a much higher standard compared to most American markets. But it's rare to hear a player — in any sport — lament the lack of external pressure.
The Golden Knights missed the playoffs last season for the first time in their existence, which its fanbase wasn’t overly pleased about. Before the players went their separate ways for the summer, Pacioretty took it upon himself to demand better of everyone in the room.
“I mentioned that at the end of the year that no one is really holding us accountable,” Pacioretty explained. “If we have a bad year like this, the city would be half on fire in Montreal. Here in Vegas, it’s 80 degrees, and it’s sunny. We’re getting our car washed and getting our organic food, and going to play golf.
“I was kind of like, ‘we’ve got to police this thing a little better amongst each other.’ I don’t want to say it was a country club, but you have no one from the outside holding you accountable.”
Without Pacioretty, someone else will need to emerge as one of the leaders in Vegas’ locker room next season. Perhaps having to endure a playoff-less summer will spark the remaining group.
"A lot of these guys haven’t played somewhere else so they don’t know really what it’s like," Pacioretty said. "I’ve felt myself personally it always gets the best out of you when my coach or someone else are demanding and hold you accountable and I found myself almost missing that a tiny bit when things went wrong this year."
Pacioretty, meanwhile, will be preparing to embark on the next chapter of his NHL career in Carolina.
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