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Hab at Heart : Etienne Boulay

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

Whether it was on the gridiron during his football days or in front of the camera in his current gig, Etienne Boulay has always been passionate about his craft. A key member of the 2009 and 2010 Montreal Alouettes squads that claimed the Grey Cup, Boulay was regarded as a solid teammate, a quality he continues to exemplify while working for the B3 Foundation alongside Canadiens alums Steve Begin and Francis Bouillon. Even if football was his first love, the CH has long held a special place in his heart. We recently caught up with the Club 1909 ad campaign star to learn more about his affection for another bleu-blanc-rouge.

How long have you been a Habs fan?

ETIENNE BOULAY : I remember a little bit from the 1993 playoffs. I was 10, and it was the only thing my parents let me stay up late for during the week. Kids who didn’t see the end of the games were made fun of the next day at school! (Laughs) Having grown up in Montreal, I always followed the Canadiens. I’ve been tracking their progress since the time of guys like Patrick Roy, Vincent Damphousse, Guy Carbonneau and Jacques Demers. I’m not going to lie by saying that I was a loyal hockey fan because my passion really was football. I love sports in general, and I think I have a particular attachment to Montreal-based teams because this is where I’m from and I spent a lot of time down in the United States. I always kept an eye on how teams were doing back home, including the Canadiens.

What is your best Canadiens memory?

EB : One of my best memories is somewhat ironic in nature. Over the last couple of years, I brought my dad to a playoff game at the Bell Centre. I wanted to kind of turn back time to when he was the one who brought me to games. So, we got our white towels walking into the building, and the energy inside was incredible. I was so looking forward to celebrating with him. Unfortunately, the Canadiens were shut out and we never had a chance to wave them. But, I still had a great night with him. I still owe him one, though!

Did you play hockey growing up? Do you still play today?

EB : When I was younger, I played some hockey on the outdoor rink in my neighborhood. I spent winter nights playing with my friends. But, a lot like football, I only know one way to play, and that’s being aggressive and forceful. I wasn’t necessarily the biggest guy out there, so I worked hard and I wasn’t afraid to go into traffic areas. But, a few years ago, when I was playing for the Alouettes, we went up against the Canadiens Alumni in an exhibition game. For some reason, we managed to score the opening goal. On the other hand, we didn’t touch the puck the rest of the way, and we went on to lose 31-1.

Is that why you became good friends with former Habs forward Steve Begin, who had a pretty similar playing style on the ice?

EB : (Laughs) It could be. We have similar interests. Having trained with Steve for a few years, I’d say we’re pretty much alike in that department. When we do something, we give everything we’ve got. We’re guys with a lot of heart. Just the way he’s involved in our Foundation, Steve really puts his heart out there. He sets an excellent example for people to follow.

The B3 Foundation, led by Boulay, Steve Begin and Francis Bouillon, aims to help youngsters make their sports dreams a reality.

You participated in the Club 1909 ad campaign last year with Steve at the Bell Centre. Did you enjoy the experience?

EB : It was incredible. It was the first time that I’d ever had the chance to head inside the Canadiens’ dressing room. I was really honored that a team with a history as rich as the Canadiens was interested in having me take part in the projects – and they wanted me to do it with one of my really good friends, who just happens to be a good actor in his own right. That made it even more special. (Laughs) I don’t really have any words to describe his facial expressions during filming, though.

You’re very involved in the development of young athletes, especially through the B3 Foundation, alongside Steve and Francis Bouillon. Do you feel a little bit “out of place” sometimes because you didn’t play pro hockey like they did?

EB : (Laughs) A little bit! The Foundation is their baby. They started it back when they were playing for the Canadiens. They worked together for two years before bringing me on board. I took part in a few events for the Foundation and we gradually became really good friends before I joined them. Being team guys, though, they’ve done good work making me feel important!

Have you ever played against one of them in a charity game? Did you ever want to hit them out there?

EB : Unfortunately, I never had that opportunity. I played a few games of ball hockey with Steve for the Foundation, but I never played against them and I’m happy about that! (Laughs)

On a serious note, just how important is it for you to get involved with young people like that?

EB : I am a firm believer in the values that can be taught through sport and the discipline that comes with it. Sports went hand-in-hand with my schoolwork, and I know it’s the same thing for a lot of athletes. Regardless of the sport, do it and move. In addition to the health benefits the come with being active, you also benefit from a mental standpoint. That’s what we do with the Foundation with guys and girls in different sports. When I visit schools, I always tell kids to find something that they’re passionate about.

After winning the Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouettes in 2009, Boulay and his teammates were presented to the Bell Centre faithful.

Back in the day with the Alouettes, you took part in two Grey Cup parades on Sainte-Catherine. How cool was it to be taking the same route that the Canadiens took after winning Stanley Cup titles?

EB : It was really something because it reminded me of the Stanley Cup parade in 1993. When I had the chance to experience it myself aboard floats in 2009 and 2010, celebrating with 200,000 people with the Grey Cup in my hands, it was incredible. When I won the Grey Cup again in Toronto in 2012, the energy in the streets there didn’t come anywhere near the level that it was in Montreal.

Which Canadiens player would make the best football player?

EB : It’s hard not to say P.K. Subban. He has the build of a running back because he’s very stocky, strong and intense. I’m also tempted to say David Desharnais because he’s also small, but he’s built strong, he has good shoulders and he’s also pretty intense. They could take some people by surprise.

Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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