SHERBROOKE - Given his work with kids on a daily basis in Sherbrooke, Jocelyn Thibault sees the arrival of the latest BLEU BLANC BOUGE rink in Estrie as a positive addition to the community.
While Thibault was raised in Montreal and grew up in Laval, the former Canadiens goaltender now calls Sherbrooke home, a city where he experienced the best moments of his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) career with the defunct Faucons in the early 90s.
Now an established businessman, while also serving as the general manager of the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Phoenix, Thibault rejoiced at the announcement a few months ago that the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation was going to build its eighth community rink in the region's capital. He was in attendance for the rink's official opening on Tuesday, which, according to Thibault, will be beneficial for all residents of the area going forward.
"I think that these rinks are really great projects, particularly because they're being installed all across Quebec, in different communities that need this type of infrastructure. It was a great choice to put one in Sherbrooke. In the western part of the city, where the rink is situated, it might have been a little bit tougher than in other areas. I thought it was fun that the Canadiens chose Sherbrooke for a project like this," admitted Thibault, who was a part of a big group of Canadiens alumni on site at Alfred-Elie-Dufresne Park to mark the occasion.
At the head of a group that helped to establish the Complexe sportif Thibault GM in Sherbrooke as well, the veteran goaltender - who celebrated his 42nd birthday just a few days ago - has always believed that physical activity should be an integral part of youngsters' daily lives.
Plenty of work has already been put in over the last few years to support the sporting landscape in the region. The fact that this space will allow Sherbrooke residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to remain active all year long, and participate in different sports with the changing of the seasons, is something very important to the father of three.
"Young people don't get up and move enough. What I mean is that we don't get them moving enough. A lot of effort has been made here," stressed Thibault, who was also involved in the Sport-Etudes program in the Sherbrooke area, where he coached the women's team his two daughters played for. "We've added many rinks in recent years in a variety of different areas, but they were mainly indoor rinks. The addition of this rink is another big step in the right direction. I really believe in that - young people, sports and good lifestyle habits. That doesn't just apply to hockey, but just going outside, moving, and doing exercise and initiating kids into sports."
Mother Nature has been hard to keep up with since winter began in the province, so the chances for kids to lace up their skates and hit the ice outdoors have been few and far between. That's why the rinks developed by the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation will be even more important in the future, particularly when it comes to dealing with global warming, which is an increasingly important and relevant phenomenon today.
With rink installations like these - and those on the way in the coming months in Montreal's Ahuntsic area and in Trois-Rivieres - youngsters in many different communities won't have to worry about climate change affecting their outdoor skating activities at all. Instead, they'll be able to continue discovering the advantages of living a healthy and physically active lifestyle.
"We won't hide it, but with the winters we've had for a while now in Quebec, it isn't helping. When I was younger, cities opened the rinks in November. It rarely rained. Now, though, it's very hard to have a natural ice surface on a full-time basis. Refrigerated rinks like this one will help tremendously and they'll further encourage kids to go out and skate come winter," concluded Thibault.