Habs’ Danault is liv­ing nearper­fect life

Life couldn’t be bet­ter with new con­tract, new bride and new baby boy on the way

Montreal Gazette - - NEWS - STU COWAN scowan@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ StuCowan1

Life is pretty good right now for the Cana­di­ens’ Phillip Danault. In fact, it’s just about per­fect. In July, Danault mar­ried his long­time girl­friend, Marie-Pierre Fortin, less than a week af­ter sign­ing a new three-year con­tract worth US$9.25 mil­lion. On Wed­nes­day, Danault an­nounced on Twit­ter and In­sta­gram that his wife is preg­nant with their first child, a boy who is due in Fe­bru­ary.

“It’s all pos­i­tive,” Danault said af­ter prac­tice on Fri­day at the Bell Sports Com­plex in Brossard. “We had a tough year last year (when the Cana­di­ens fin­ished 28th in the NHL stand­ings) and all those pos­i­tive things over the sum­mer helped me to be strong men­tally. The great sum­mer gave me good en­ergy and I’m try­ing to bring that here with the team.”

Danault, who grew up in Vic­to­ri­av­ille, said he’s al­ways wanted to be­come a fa­ther. He re­mem­bers his fa­ther, Alain, build­ing a back­yard rink for him for about

five years in a row, start­ing when he was around 10.

“When the Cana­di­ens were play­ing, I would watch the first pe­riod on TV with him and then I would go out­side on the rink,” re­called Danault, who first learned to skate at age 3.

But no mat­ter how much Danault skated on that back­yard rink, it couldn’t make him grow. He was only 5-foot-2 dur­ing his first sea­son of ban­tam hockey at age 13 and re­calls be­ing scared be­cause it was the first level where hit­ting was al­lowed. When Danault made the jump to mid­get Triple-A two years later with the Trois-Riv­ières Es­ta­cades, he was only 5-foot-4 and was play­ing on the fourth line.

“I went to see the coach and that changed my ca­reer,” Danault re­called. “I said: ‘I’m work­ing hard. I’m al­ways first on and last off the ice.’ I told him I should get more ice time. I re­mem­ber I was cry­ing. I got emo­tional.”

The coach, Gilles Bouchard, had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing tough, but he was ob­vi­ously im­pressed by the pas­sion Danault showed.

“The next game I played first line at cen­tre and I played the point on the power play, which I loved,” Danault re­called.

Af­ter post­ing 27 points in 44 reg­u­lar-sea­son games with the Es­ta­cades, Danault put up 15 points in 19 play­off games.

“We went to the fi­nal and lost to Laval,” he re­called.

Last month, the Es­ta­cades re­tired the No. 10 that Danault wore. The only other play­ers to have their num­bers re­tired by the mid­get Triple-A team are goalie Marc De­nis and for­ward Steve Bé­gin. The cer­e­mony was sup­posed to be held last Jan­uary, but a few days be­fore the Es­ta­cades had planned to re­tire Danault’s jersey, he took a slap­shot from Bos­ton Bru­ins de­fence­man Zdeno Chara off the head dur­ing a game at the Bell Cen­tre. he suf­fered a con­cus­sion and missed 30 games.

He posted 8-17-25 to­tals in the 52 games he played last sea­son. He has one as­sist in the first three games this sea­son, and says there are no is­sues now from his con­cus­sion.

Danault will be at cen­tre be­tween To­mas Tatar and Bren­dan Gal­lagher on Satur­day night when the Cana­di­ens play the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins at the Bell Cen­tre (7 p.m., CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Ra­dio).

Af­ter play­ing mid­get TripleA, Danault hit a growth spurt dur­ing four sea­sons with his home­town Vic­to­ri­av­ille Ti­gres in the QMJHL and is now listed at 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds. His fa­ther was the pub­lic address an­nouncer for Ti­gres home games and Danault was able to live at home with his par­ents dur­ing his ju­nior ca­reer, which he says helped him im­mensely.

Chicago se­lected Danault in the first round (26th over­all) of the 2011 NHL Draft and the Cana­di­ens ac­quired him from the Black­hawks on Feb. 26, 2016, along with a sec­ond-round pick at this year’s draft (used to se­lect Rus­sian de­fence­man Alexan­der Ro­manov) in ex­change for for­wards Dale Weise and To­mas Fleis­chmann. It was one of GM Marc Bergevin’s best moves.

Life grow­ing up in Vic­to­ri­av­ille was very en­joy­able for Danault.

“It’s a great city … it’s a happy city,” he said. “It’s peace­ful.”

It’s also where he met his fu­ture wife five years ago, when they were liv­ing in the same du­plex. She’s from Que­bec City, but had moved to Vic­to­ri­av­ille for work.

“I was with my whole fam­ily paint­ing and she was on her deck … she was the girl next door,” Danault said with a big smile. “I said: ‘Hi, I’m Phil.’ She came over and my whole fam­ily was there. My mother (Michelle) has nine broth­ers and sis­ters and they were all there. They said: ‘Your neigh­bour’s hot!’ They all fell in love with her.

“It was des­tiny,” Danault added. “She’s such a good per­son. She’s beau­ti­ful … she’s a lit­tle trea­sure. I got lucky … very lucky be­cause I was sup­posed to be mov­ing to an­other house.”

One thing led to an­other and now the happy cou­ple are ex­cited about be­com­ing par­ents.

ALLEN MCIN­NIS/FILES

Phillip Danault, who inked a three-year, US$9.25 mil­lion deal in July, will cen­tre To­mas Tatar and Bren­dan Gal­lagher on Satur­day.

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