Already leading the NHL’s Western Conference by three points, the Vegas Golden Knights received a boost on defense this week with the return of Alex Pietrangelo.
After missing nine games dating back to Thanksgiving weekend, the 32-year-old defenseman from King City, Canada, returned to the ice on Saturday against the New York Islanders, and has recorded an assist in each of the team’s three games since.
After Saturday’s contest, Pietrangelo opened up about his absence, which he had initially kept private. He revealed that his 4-year-old daughter, Evelyn, had fallen severely ill, first catching a flu that turned into encephalitis. The swelling created a lesion on her brain, and she lost all motor skills such as eating, walking and talking.
“The first five days, she couldn’t even open her eyes,” an emotional Pietrangelo said, according to The Athletic. “We did MRIs and studies and tried to figure out what the issue was. When they can’t really give you a timetable of when your precious little girl is going to get better, it’s pretty scary.”
But then Pietrangelo’s demeanor brightened as he talked about the most recent developments.
“She came home three days ago and she woke up the next morning out of nowhere [and tried to walk],” he said. “… We were thinking this could be months down the road when this would happen. Then yesterday she just kept walking. She walked in circles for a full day.”
Pietrangelo and his wife, Jayne, are incredibly grateful to report that Evelyn is expected to make a full recovery.
Worth a thousand words 💛 pic.twitter.com/5QisYmubzc
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 18, 2022
The man who captained the St. Louis Blues to the 2019 Stanley Cup title said he knows there’s much more to life than hockey, which made his decision to be with Evelyn, Jayne and his three other kids (Oliver, Theodore and Julia Grace) during this ordeal a no-brainer.
“I said I wouldn’t go back to work until I feel comfortable with where [Evelyn] is at home,” he told The Athletic. “Me and my wife said, ‘If it takes a year to get her back to where we want her to be, then so be it.’ There’s more to life than some things. Whether it’s this job or another job, I felt like I needed to be there not only for my family but my wife too.”
The fact that Evelyn is on the mend, Pietrangelo says, is nothing more than God’s life-giving grace.
“God answered our prayers, and it’s a miracle how far she’s come along in 48 hours,” Pietrangelo said on Saturday. “Yesterday, she tried getting on her scooter in the house. These are all things that we did not expect to happen. We prayed that it would, and we stayed optimistic, but it’s hard.”
Evelyn’s life-threatening medical scare hasn’t been the only public family crisis Pietrangelo and his wife have had to endure. On June 15, 2017, the couple lost their firstborn child, Gabriel, due to complications from his birth.
In a March 2018 article with the Players’ Tribune, Pietrangelo admitted the loss of his son caused him to question God.
“The single greatest thing we’ve ever been given was taken away from us, just like that,” he wrote. “I don’t care how strong of a person you are, … you can’t help but ask yourself, ‘If God has done all of this for me in my life, and given me so much, and if there’s a plan for everyone, then why did this happen?'”
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In an Instagram post six months after Gabriel was born, Pietrangelo wrote, “There hasn’t been a day I haven’t shed a tear for you but today my heart aches a little more knowing we should be holding you in our arms and not just our hearts. Many don’t understand why we chose to honor you the way that we did but we loved you even before you were formed in the womb, I’m just sorry they never got to know and love you too. So for now, I’m hanging on to the promise of Heaven to hold you and baby #2.”
Little did he knew that he and Jayne would be having triplets — Evelyn, Oliver and Theodore — in July 2018, followed by Julia Grace in September 2020.
Now, as Evelyn continues to heal and return to the activities typical of a 4-year-old, her father returns to the grind of another long hockey schedule (his 13th full season). He and his Golden Knights teammates seek to maintain their hold on first place in the Western Conference, with their next game at home against the St. Louis Blues, Pietrangelo’s old team, on Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
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