No one is more surprised to be the Quebec Major Hockey League's winningest head coach than Richard Martel.
Martel achieved the milestone Sunday night when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens beat the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1 for his 570th career victory. With that, he surpassed QMJHL Hall of Famer Guy Chouinard for the all-time record.
"When I started in the QMJHL I just wanted to be involved in the hockey community," said Martel. "I thought I'd have a job for a long time, but not for 20 years.
"I'm very proud to be a coach in the QMJHL . . . I feel privileged - very privileged."
Although he has never won a President's Cup as a head coach, Martel's teams have consistently been contenders. He's also become a cornerstone of the QMJHL coaching fraternity and was the league's top coach in 1993-'94 and 2004-'05.
"The record is a huge accomplishment for a coach at the major junior level," said league commissioner Gilles Courteau. "Richard deserves much credit for the job he's done in this league."
Martel's coaching career began in 1990 as an assistant with Chicoutimi. He won three games as a substitute for head coach Joe Canale, his first taste of coaching success in the QMJHL.
In 1993, Martel became the head coach of the now-defunct St. Hyacinthe Laser. Two years later, he signed on with the Val-d'Or Foreurs before moving behind the bench of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar midway through the 1998 season.
Finally, Martel returned to the Sagueneens in 2003 as a mid-season replacement. Since then, he's recorded a 228-206-11 mark with Chicoutimi.
Martel attributes his longevity and success to the discipline he instills in his players.
"I coach intensity and hard work," said Martel. "All season I talk to my players about working hard and dedication year after year."
His formula has been a successful one, with many of his players moving on to pro hockey careers. For example, such NHL regulars as Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Minnesota Wild, Steve Begin of the Boston Bruins and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks were all coached by Martel.
"There are a lot of men who played for Martel who are still playing the game in the NHL or in Europe or in other pro minor leagues," said Courteau. "He deserves credit for helping them to that level."
One accomplishment Martel is most proud of came in his first year as an assistant coach with Chicoutimi. That year the Sagueneens won the President's Cup behind the stellar play of goaltender Felix Potvin, the former Toronto Maple Leafs star who won the Guy Lafleur trophy as playoff MVP that season.
Martel considers himself a teacher and says developing his players, on and off the ice, always remains a top priority.
"I want my players to be involved in volunteering in Chicoutimi and make sure they do well in school," said Martel. "When they stop playing hockey, I want them to be good citizens."