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Outdoor rivalry games never easy, but ‘so much fun’ for Bellemare

NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe - Practice Sessions

STATELINE, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 19: J.T. Compher #37 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot on goaltender Peyton Jones #42 during practice for the 2021 NHL Outdoors in Lake Tahoe on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort, at the south shore of Lake Tahoe on February 19, 2021 in Stateline, Nevada. On Saturday, February 20, 2021, the Colorado Avalanche will take on the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Boston Bruins will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, February 21, 2021. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

[UPDATE: Due to sun issues, the Avalanche-Golden Knights game was delayed after the first period. It will resume at midnight ET on NBCSN. Watch the game online an do the NBC Sports app by clicking here.]

When Pierre-Edouard Bellemare steps on to the ice this weekend during the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, he’ll use an extra moment to take it all in.

“I’m a kid from France. It comes down to that,” the Avalanche forward told NBC Sports this week. “Where I come from, how often will I have the chance to play outdoors? Another game in the NHL is huge. I never thought I was going to be here.”

Bellemare and the Avalanche will play the Golden Knights Saturday afternoon on a rink built on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort Golf Course. The Bruins and Flyers will play Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on the same sheet with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background.

The game will not actually take place on a lake, which Bellemare originally believed to be the case. Last month, teammate Andre Burakovsky broke the news to him.

Bellemare says that once the games were announced he read stories about the event taking place “on Lake Tahoe.” That’s where the confusion began. Back home in France the lakes freeze over during winter — unlike the one in Tahoe. He’s taken some gentle ribbing about the mixup from friends and family ever since.

“It’s one of those where you just have to have a good laugh about it,” Bellemare said.

The laughs continues as the Avalanche were given this reminder when they entered their dressing room in Lake Tahoe.

Screen Shot 2021-02-19 at 5.28.23 PM

A rivalry continued

Even with the picturesque setting and the outdoor game environment, Bellemare still expects the intensity to be there. He compared it to that of a soccer derby, in that no matter where it takes place the passion between the teams remains. Saturday’s matchup will be the third of four straight Colorado and Vegas will play against one another. Each has won a game in the four-game series so far.

As with all outdoor games, there is the balance players must deal with between grinding out for two points and enjoying the experience. The games in Lake Tahoe will be the most unique of the NHL’s 30 previous games outside. Bellemare, who has played in three such games, including one in France, is eager for his fourth.

“It’s never an easy game, but it’s so much fun,” he said.

NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover – detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – on Sunday, February 21 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.