LAS VEGAS — It would be easy for Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit to wear emotions on his sweater.
Instead, he dons a stronger one on his helmet.
“We don’t know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have.”
It’s accompanied by an orange ribbon, and the words “Multiple Sclerosis Awareness.”
It’s a message he’s worn since his time in juniors as a tribute to his father, John, who suffers from MS, the disabling disease of one’s central nervous system.
Ask the veteran netminder about the surgery he endured last summer, the struggles of being waived and eventually being relegated to the minors as a 30-year-old, the mental anguish of watching the Golden Knights the first four months of the season, and the trauma of suffering another injury – he’s an open book and extremely poignant with his thoughts.
Ask him about his father, and it’s tough.
It’s been tough.
“I want to support my dad, I know he’s going through a lot in his life,” Brossoit said in an interview when he was 19 years old. “I just put the paint job on the back of my mask to let him know that he’s in the back of my mind at all times and we’re doing this together.”
Fast forward to this past Saturday, during an exclusive interview with the Sporting Tribune, two words: “He’s struggling,” Brossoit said of his father.
Brossoit wasn’t sure when he’d return between the pipes, as he entered the campaign after hip surgery and was waived by the Golden Knights on Nov. 10, 2022.
After clearing waivers, he was sent down the interstate to nearby Henderson to play for Vegas’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Silver Knights. He finally was promoted to serve as a backup to Adin Hill, who had been filling in for All-Star goalie Logan Thompson.
But after starting three straight games for the Golden Knights in February, filling in for Hill, who needed rest from a minor injury, Brossoit was placed on the injured reserve list with a lower-body injury and was listed as day-to-day. He returned one month later and closed the regular season as the No. 1 guy.
He’s still the No. 1 guy in the net and has the Golden Knights in the second round after they skated past Winnipeg in five games.
“I didn’t expect the healing process to take as long as it did,” Brossoit said. “And then me being out so long, getting my game feel back. I didn’t expect that to take as long as it did. I kind of expected to just come flying out of the gates, some more naive optimism. So while I was down there, and never really felt like my game was really complete yet. My game started coming together and then I got the opportunity, so it was kind of nice that it happened that way.”
During the regular season and the playoffs, Brossoit has been phenomenal, losing just one time in regulation across 15 starts.
In his 16 appearances, he has a .933 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.42.
“He’s played great ever since he came back up with us during the regular season and gave us a couple of unbelievable starts here,” Vegas forward Jack Eichel said. “Obviously he got injured again and grinded, worked his way back, and now he’s really owned that net and it’s been awesome to see.”
Next up for Vegas is Edmonton, a second-straight opponent Brossoit previously played for, as he spent four seasons with the Oilers before spending three in Winnipeg.
And even though the Oilers had three 100-point scorers – Connor McDavid (153, 1st in the NHL), Leon Draisaitl (128, 2nd), and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (104, 9th) – there is plenty of confidence brewing for a guy who’s been playing with a chip on his shoulder.
“I think everyone in this room has a lot of confidence in him,” Eichel added. “I think we all did have a lot of confidence in him. So it’s great to see him get rewarded and it’s good when you have a lot of confidence in your goaltender and your goaltender is playing like that – we feed off of that.”
For Brossoit, there’s a feeling of uncomfortableness he’s welcomed pregame for 15 starts, particularly during the playoffs leading up to puck drop.
“The anticipation leading up to a game, it’s very intense,” Brossoit said. “But I welcome that uncomfortable adrenaline because it comes in the form of anxiety. You want that because then you know it’s energy storage. And then once the game starts it turns into adrenaline and you use it to your advantage.
“What’s nice for me is I had a pretty short sprint to the playoffs, and for me, I had something to prove. It was a small opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it. So those games felt similar to me to what these playoff games are feeling like. To me personally, they are very, very intense and very meaningful games for me in my career. So then going into playoffs now it’s had a similar feeling.”
Thanks to the message on his helmet, he also knows there’s much more he’s playing for, someone who’s always on his mind.
PLAYIN’ FOR POPS
“His goal was ‘I want to play hockey at the level where I can make enough money to help my dad,'” Travis Ridgen recently shared on his “Slangin’ the Bizkit” podcast, about Brossoit.
Ridgen went on to talk about Brossoit’s initial entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames, saying it was worth $98,000. But, per Ridgen, the entire sum went toward his father to “give him a better quality of life.”
“Never met LB, but heard he’s an incredible guy through friends that played with him,” Ridgen told The Sporting Tribune via DM on Tuesday morning.
It was quite clear how much Brossoit hurts for his father, though he did acknowledge he plays with a heavy heart every time he steps on the ice.
John Brossoit is under 24-hour care in British Columbia, Canada.
Though it’s difficult to get the broadcast at times, Brossoit said his father tries to tune into games, saying, “He loves watching me play, it’s what gives him juice.”
The two Facetime regularly, at least once a week.
Considering what his father has been going through, and the past year for Brossoit, that message on his helmet has never seemed more applicable.
“It hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it?” Brossoit said. “When you’re going through ups and downs, especially the downs, it’s uncomfortable and hard not to think of yourself as a victim and you think it’s all bad. But now that I’m older and I’ve gone through a few of those, (I) realize you actually become much better throughout those moments. You become grateful for the struggles.”
Said Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy: “Playoffs always create great stories, good and bad, and fortunately this is one of those good ones.”
May 30 is recognized as World MS Day. Learn more or donate at the Multiple Sclerosis official website.