From Rouen to Tampa Bay, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare successfully exports French hockey to the United States

PORTRAIT – While playing the legendary Stanley Cup with his Tampa Bay Lightning team, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare represents French hockey internationally. Itinerary of a gifted skater.

They are only twelve French to have walked the North American rinks in the history of the NHL, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is one of them. With 587 career matches, the native of Blanc Mesnil is the second tricolor to have played the most games in the American league after Antoine Roussel.

A sporting family at the heart of its success

Born on March 6, 1985 in the suburbs of Paris, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare began playing hockey at the age of 3 in the south of France (Montpellier, Nîmes then Avignon), before returning to Paris. He owes his vocation to a very sporty family, where hockey has always been present: his older brother Geoffroy also practiced the discipline for many years, just like his maternal grandfather.

Her sister Rose-Eliandre, a former professional gymnast who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, has always been closely linked to her brother’s career. For the anecdote, she tells the Figaro that Pierre-Edouard often accompanied him to his physical training during their summer holidays and that he thus discovered through his sister’s career, the importance of physical preparation in sport. A philosophy that the hockey player has transposed to his discipline.

Quickly alone to raise her five children after the departure of the father, his mother Frédérique, who also played hockey, had a leading role in the career of young Pierre-Edouard by instilling in him a complete education with values ​​necessary for personal development. : honesty, respect, courage. Elements that Pierre-Edouard has never forgotten, in France, Sweden and the United States.

“Humanly, he is an exceptional person with real values. He still comes to see us in Rouen once a year, whenever he has the chance. He is still very close to some at the club. explains Guy Fournier, current manager of the Rouen Dragons who trained Pierre-Edouard when he started his professional career in Rouen, in the Magnus League (2001-2006).

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, center, with his teammates in April 2022. Reinhold Matay / PANORAMIC

His sister Rose-Eliandre Bellemare, a former professional gymnast who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, has always been closely linked to her brother’s career. For the anecdote, she tells Le Figaro that Pierre-Edouard often accompanied her to her physical training during the summer holidays and that he thus discovered through the work of his sister, the importance of physical preparation.

A scientific vision of sport

Hockey has been part of Pierre-Edouard’s daily life since he was 3 years old. A real passion that transcends him, but the story could have been very different for the young boy often described by his relatives as “gifted and precocious intellectually and physically”.

When his career had just started, he decided to follow medical studies in Rouen at the same time. Motivated by the idea of ​​succeeding at university as well as on the ice rinks, Pierre-Edouard finds a way with his friends to arrive at class earlier in order to be in the front row of the amphitheatres: “He always fought to organize and succeed. He is a very thoughtful person in his decisions. confides to us his sister Rose-Eliandre, who founded the sports studio ALLSTEPS with Pierre-Edouard, a stone’s throw from the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

Decisions are one of the traits of Pierre-Edouard’s personality. Analyzing, understanding and deciding: a characteristic that can be found throughout his career. He spends a lot of time before making a choice for his career, always so thoughtful, always so cerebral: “he is in constant questioning, he will constantly observe a situation in his career as in his life” explains her sister who, as a former professional sportswoman, recognizes that her big brother is totally “dedicated to his sport in substance as well as in form”.

When he leaves Rouen to join Leksands IF, in the Swedish second division, he takes a risk on paper but Pierre-Edouard, true to himself, works in his corner, observes his new teammates, collects advice and learns Swedish in a few months.

“Everyone expected to see the cliché of the arrogant, contemptuous, lesson-giver Frenchman land, but the Swedes were surprised to see the opposite extreme. While he played little in his second season, he was extended for his contribution outside the ice, he was too appreciated by the city. emphasizes Rose-Eliandre.

From progress to progress, Bellemare won and finished top scorer in D2 with 31 goals in 2009. He then joined the club Skelleftea, which he guided twice to the title of the Swedish first division (2013 and 2014), one of the toughest leagues in the world.

The face of French hockey

It was when the NHL was no longer a fixed objective that she knocked on the door of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The Philadelphia Flyers signed him in 2014 when he was 29, a very advanced age for a rookie. The confidence placed in him was not long in Pennsylvania: 237 games in three seasons with a role as assistant captain during his last campaign.

Unfortunately with the expansion of the League, the French international is not protected by his franchise and will subsequently be drafted by the Las Vegas Golden Knights during the Expansion Draft, where he will remain for two years (2017-2019). ) and will play his first NHL final lost in 2019 against the Washington Capitals. Bellemare then joined the Colorado Avalanche for two years (2019-2021), before committing last summer to Tampa Bay, Florida.

Pierre-Edouard in the Avalanche jersey in 2021. AI/Reuters/Panoramic

In the United States, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare brought a unique new mentality to hockey. With his ability to adapt, he became a defensive player in the NHL, while he has always been an attacker in Europe. A mutation that does not surprise his sister: “He always knew how to step aside for his team, he created his own role for himself which did not exist in the United States. He has this observant side which helps him. He does not like the boxes, the labels.

No surprise either with Guy Fournier, his first pro coach: “He is very versatile, he knows how to cover the entire rink, which is quite rare in hockey. He is a hard worker capable of playing in defense and attack, he has obvious talent but there is a lot of work behind it.

There are only two objectives left for this “tremendous ambassador of French hockey” in the words of Guy Fournier: participate in the Winter Olympics with the Blues, and become the second Frenchman after Cristobal Huet to win the Stanley Cup. Answer in the next few weeks.

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