July 14th, Bastille Day, is celebrated as the French Fourth of July. It is a day of being patriotic and celebrating freedom with fireworks and gatherings. Looking back in Philadelphia Flyers history, there has been just one player who hails from France: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
When we think of hockey players, we sometimes think of players with French accents. Those are mostly French Canadians from Quebec and NHL history is full of them, Flyers general manager Daniel Briere being among them. However, if you are talking about NHLers from France itself, only a dozen have suited up. With 660 games played, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has been the most prolific and one of the most successful.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare arrived in Philly in 2014. He had been a successful player in the Swedish League, serving as an alternate captain for three seasons on Skellefteå AIK. Skellefteå had captured back-to-back SEL championships in 2013 and 2014. In his final season in Skellefteå, he scored 20 goals with 15 assists. After playing in the SEL for five seasons, registering125 points in 238 games, he decided to take his talents to North America.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers as a 29 year old rookie. He was not expected to be a scoring forward, as he never truly was in Sweden. It was hoped he could be a dependable depth piece. He made the team coming out of training camp and played in all but one game during the 2014-15 season; scoring six goals with six assists. He averaged over 12 minutes of ice time playing as a bottom six forward doling out 121 hits, still a career high, and getting 32 takeaways. Those aren’t stellar numbers, but they are very respectable.
In fact, it was those takeaways that became a major part of Bellemare’s game. He was a reliable defensive minded forward. In that role, he became a valuable piece for the Flyers on the bottom lines. He would be given a two-year contract extension. In his three years in Philadelphia, he scored 17 goals with 17 assists.
In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence. During the ensuing expansion draft, the Flyers left 22 players available to be selected. Among the players that you would have thought would have been picked up by Vegas included: Michael Del Zotto, Matt Read, Jordan Weal, and goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. To everyone’s shock, the Golden Knights selected Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare spent two years in Nevada. He scored six goals with 10 assists in Vegas’ inaugural season. He also registered three assists as the Knights surprised everyone and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season. After two years in the desert, he signed a two-year deal with Colorado. Following that contract, he signed a two-year deal with Tampa and was on the Lightning team that fell to the Avalanche in the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals.
Last week, the now 38 year old forward signed a one-year, $775,000 contract to play with the Seattle Kraken. Playing in Seattle reunites him with his former Flyers coach, Dave Hakstol, the coach who first gave him his shot in the NHL. Hakstol will use his leadership and experience to help guide his young team in its third year of existence.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has played more games in the NHL than any of the players from France. His 60 goals, 71 assists, and 131 career points rank second behind only Antoine Roussel, a longtime player for the Dallas Stars. While Bellemare wasn’t an outstanding player and only played in Philadelphia for three seasons, if you ask most Flyers fans, they would say positive things about him. While he was not a prolific scorer, he was someone who put everything out there on the ice, knew his assignments, and tried his hardest to be the best player he could when he laced up his skates. In short, he’d be the sort of player that John Tortorella and Briere would love to have on this team now because of his drive and work ethic.
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