MONTREAL - After making a name for himself by earning a Canadiens' training camp tryout courtesy of CBC' s hockey reality show Bell Making the Cut, Kevin Lavallee will now attempt to make the ultimate cut.
While Lavallee has no trouble talking about his experience on the show that saw over over 4,000 players vie for a tryout contract with one of the six Canadian NHL clubs, he has a tougher time dealing with the references to Making the Cut as a reality show.
"This wasn't some made-for-tv, make-believe thing," said the 6-foot-2, 203-pound defenseman. "There was nothing fake or added for dramatic effect. That is how a training camp goes. It's tough, it's intense, and your every move is scrutinized. Everyone asks me if parts of it were embellished, but any hockey player to have lived through a camp will tell you that's just how it is."
Lavallee may have a point in that there were no signs of any tribal council, boardroom or even Paula Abdul to speak of on Making the Cut. But his impassioned testimony to the realism of the show makes it exactly that-reality TV, perhaps at its finest. It should come as no surprise, however, that you won't find any posters of Jeff Probst, Donald Trump or even Ben Mulroney in Lavallee's lockerroom stall.
"I don't watch any of those shows like Survivor," admitted the 23-year-old. "I find them really annoying and I never understood why they're so popular. To me, they're just so pointless."
Pointless or not, Lavallee could be a couple of thunderous hits and broken-up 2-on-1's away from making his childhood dream a reality thanks in part to his nemesis, reality TV.
"Just being here and getting this opportunity is unbelievable," said Lavallee as he contemplated his Canadiens pants and hockey socks in disbelief. "But I can't afford to get all caught up in that. I'm here with a goal in mind and I have to keep my focus or else all my hard work to get here will have been for nothing."
Part of that hard work on the groundbreaking CBC series saw Lavallee get the chance to mingle with hockey greatness, most notably former Canadiens coaching legend Scotty Bowman.
"No matter how far I get in this game, no one can take away the time I got to spend with someone like Scotty," said Lavallee. "To be sitting in the room before a game and get a pep talk from a legend like Bowman is something I'll never forget."
Also involved in the show was the irrepressible Mike Keenan. Lavallee had nothing but great things to say about everyone he worked with on Making the Cut, but what about Iron Mike?
"Sure he's tough, but that's why he's been so successful," he said. "The thing about hockey people and coaches is that on the ice and in the room, it's all business. But outside of that, they're all awesome people. To tell you the truth, I got along really well with Keenan.
"Then again," he added with a laugh, "even if I didn't I probably wouldn't tell you."
The media-savvy Lavallee is among the dozen players who took part in last week's annual rookie tournament held in Ottawa who were also invited to the Canadiens training camp. He held his own at the tournament, even scoring a goal in four games.
So who exactly is Lavallee? His hockey journey has taken him across the globe since his days with both the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the Montreal Rocket of the QMJHL. The Montreal native spent the past four seasons honing his skills in Germany with Augsburg, Amberg, the Straubling Tigers and finally the Kassel Huskies.
Lavallee will now be looking to add his name to the growing list of players who have reached the NHL despite never hearing their name called on draft day. That group is headlined, of course, by 2003-04 league MVP Martin St-Louis of the Lightning, along with the Canadiens' own Francis Bouillon.
"Everything from the show to what I've seen and learned so far with the Canadiens has been amazing," said Lavallee. "I've met some great people here already and I'm still in touch with close friends I made on Making the Cut. That's one thing about training camps, everyone may be fighting for a spot, but [the experience] really brings us all closer together."
Many see the recent explosion of reality TV as the downfall of television. But judging from the look on Lavallee's face as he dons the Canadiens uniform, one could certainly beg to differ.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.