Bouchard brings fresh voice to Laval Rocket

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - scowan@post­media.com

Joël Bouchard’s for­mer team­mate is now his boss.

Cana­di­ens gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin an­nounced Thurs­day morn­ing that Bouchard has been hired as the new head coach of the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

Bouchard and Bergevin were team­mates with the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins dur­ing the 2002-03 sea­son and Bouchard was asked dur­ing a jam-packed news con­fer­ence Thurs­day af­ter­noon at Laval’s Place Bell if he had a favourite mem­ory of Bergevin as a team­mate.

“He’s by far ... by far the most en­er­getic, friendly, funny guy I’ve played with,” said Bouchard, who played 13 sea­sons in the NHL. “I think it’s well known in the NHL. He was a guy that was com­ing ev­ery day as a pro­fes­sional. He knew when it was time to do busi­ness, he knew when it was time to laugh. He made every­body feel com­fort­able. I played half a year with him and he was a joy to lis­ten (to) and to be with. I’m sure you guys know (that) from every­body in the NHL. He was a good guy to be around.”

Bergevin looked out at the as­sem­bled me­dia and smiled be­fore say­ing: “I don’t think they see that side of me.” Ev­ery­one in the room laughed. There wasn’t much to smile or laugh about this sea­son with the Cana­di­ens, un­less it was how bad they were, fin­ish­ing 28th out of 31 teams in the NHL stand­ings. The Rocket were worse, fin­ish­ing dead-last in the 30-team AHL.

“Joël and I played to­gether in Pitts­burgh, but the main rea­son he’s here, I think you guys all know why,” Bergevin said. “His suc­cess, his en­ergy as a coach, his track record speaks for it­self what he’s done with the Ar­mada in Bois­briand.”

Bouchard won the Ron La­pointe Tro­phy this sea­son as the QMJHL’s top coach af­ter lead­ing the Blainville-Bois­briand Ar­mada to a league-best 50-117 record be­fore los­ing to the Acadie-Bathurst Ti­tan in the Pres­i­dent’s Cup fi­nal. He was also GM and pres­i­dent of the ju­nior team.

Bouchard brings very good cre­den­tials and some much­needed fresh blood to the Rocket in the same way Do­minique Ducharme does as a new as­sis­tant coach with the Cana­di­ens. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what kind of changes Ducharme and Bouchard — who are good friends — might help bring in sys­tem­wise, be­cause what both teams have been do­ing hasn’t worked. Claude Julien still has four years left on his US$25-mil­lion con­tract as Cana­di­ens head coach, but now has two bilin­gual guys be­hind him ready take his spot if things don’t work out.

“It’s a great plea­sure and I’m priv­i­leged and hum­bled to be able to be here,” Bouchard said.

“It’s go­ing to be a great adventure and I’m thrilled.”

Adventure is a good word.

STU COWAN

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