PARIS, FRANCE – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was understandably the most excited among the 19 players at the NHL European Player Media Tour in Paris on Wednesday.
Born in the Paris suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward normally returns to the City of Lights once a year with his family to visit his sister. But like everyone else, he didn’t travel much the past two offseasons because of the coronarius pandemic.
So having the NHL use Paris for the first time as the European site to promote its upcoming season was a welcome opportunity for Bellemare to come home and bring more attention to the sport he loves in his native country.
“I think it’s pretty cool. I love it,” Bellemare said. “The only downside of it is the French media is not aware. I would’ve loved to have French media so we could use it also for growing the game in France because it’s needed.”
Bellemare, who lives in Skelleftea, Sweden, in the offseason, is one of three players born in France who played in the NHL last season, along with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier and Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Roussel. He’s one of 13 born in the country to play in the NHL in its history.
With hockey rarely in the spotlight in France, the NHL is exploring ways to change that. In fact, the European Player Media Tour might be the start of the League having more of a presence here.
“Part of the reason we decided to come to Paris was in part another short summer, and we’re asking our players to make a commitment to capture media content to promote the game,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “In making that request you want to pick a location in Europe that players want to spend time in and bring guests to. Part of it is about accommodating player interests, but do we have an interest in making hockey bigger in France generally? Of course, we do.
“That starts at the grassroots level, more participation in hockey.”
It could eventually lead an NHL game in Paris.
“Obviously a very mature, wealthy economy here in Paris,” Deputy Commissioner Daly said. “It would be great to bring teams over here at some point in the future and play a game. Probably a preseason game at first, but that’s certainly on the radar screen, although maybe a longer-term radar.”