When Team France beat Canada 3-2 on the shootout for the country’s first ever win against a full-NHL Canadian roster, it was fitting that first line centre Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the winning goal. With a dedication to the sport that is second to none, he has once again drawn the interest of National Hockey League clubs. But Bellemare remains grounded.
“It’s all about showing up for the team,” said Bellemare. “My only focus right now is on the next game versus Italy and for us, that’s more important than the Canada game.”
Refusing to talk about the possibility of making a run for the quarter-finals, the focus is still staying in the top division of the IIHF World Championship.
“Staying up is crucial for French hockey as it gives the sport exposure and grows the game on the youth level,” said Bellemare. “Playing in the top division is also a big learning experience for our younger players. Guys such as myself and others on the team that are playing in North America always try to show what we have picked up.”
Bellemare can relate and learning experiences can also come from opposing teams. When playing in his fourth World Championship in Canada, the French shared their gym with Team Russia.
“They had giant legs and a strong core but their arms weren’t big at all,” he says. “I was the other way around, all arms. That summer, I really worked hard on my legs and my core strength.”
Today, Bellemare is one of the most well conditioned players in the Swedish SHL. And coming from a family with a mother that has earned a black belt in karate, a brother in hockey and two sisters practising gymnastics and aerobics at the international level, he is no stranger to a tough training regimen.
“I’ve seen how hard they train, especially in gymnastics, and have learned a lot from it,” said Bellemare, who has played in Sweden since he was 21.
“My mother has always told me that it’s not those who pat you on the back that will help you get to the next level, it’s the people who don’t believe in you. Those are the ones you need to prove wrong.”
This season, he completed his fifth season with Skelleftea in the SHL. The last three years, he has served as an assistant captain with the team and has developed into an offensive force to be reckoned with. In the playoffs, he had nine goals and five assists in 14 games as Skelleftea won their second straight Swedish title.
For a French squad that has prepared for the tournament in over a month’s time, the late addition of Bellemare is a crucial one.
”He is one of the most important players on our team along with guys such as [team captain] Laurent Meunier and [goaltender] Cristobal Huet,” says France’s assistant coach Pierre Pousse. ”We want to use him in offensive situations but spare him on the penalty kill. We need to make sure that we don’t exhaust him.”
As for himself, Bellemare feels better than ever before.
”In the last three years, I’ve come to the world Championships nursing injuries,” says Bellemare. ”This year, I feel really good.
And for us, it’s all about consistency from now on. It’s something we have struggled with in the past and we need to change that is were are to have a good tournament.”