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Road to the NHL: Nathan Beaulieu

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – There’s no denying the significant role parents often play in the development of young players. In Nathan’s Beaulieu’s case, it’s particularly true.

The lone boy in a family of three children, Nathan was the only youngster interested in hockey, a passion he shared with his father, Jacques.

“I was Nathan’s coach up until Bantam. Then, I coached him again in Junior with the Saint John Sea Dogs,” explained Mr. Beaulieu. “When he was really young, he was playing at just about the same level as everyone else. When he got to Pee-Wee, though, we saw that he had a certain talent level that really separated him from the crowd.”

Like the majority of hockey parents who also coach their children, Mr. Beaulieu quickly learned to draw a line between what went on at the rink and what happened at home.

“It wasn’t hard to separate the coach and father roles. When he was at the rink, he was treated like any other player. At home, he was my son. If I didn’t like the way he was playing, we didn’t talk about it at home. It stayed at the rink,” mentioned Mr. Beaulieu, who was named the QMJHL’s Coach of the Year in 2007-08.

The 22-year-old defenseman, who signed a two-year deal with the Canadiens in mid-June, shared his father’s philosophy in that department.

“When I’d leave the rink, he’d be my dad. That was true even in Juniors. When I was playing, he was my coach. He was good at it. He had experience with it,” offered Beaulieu, who claimed a Memorial Cup title with the Sea Dogs in 2011. “Dale Hunter had his son and a few of his nephews on the team [with the London Knights, where Jacques was an assistant coach from 2002 to 2006]. He learned from that. He was great at separating the two roles. But, if I wanted to talk hockey with him at home, it wasn’t something we were scared to discuss.”

While the pair has always enjoyed a good relationship, the elder Beaulieu never hesitated to point out the flaws in his son’s game in an effort to help him reach his goal of becoming a full-time NHLer.

“He was always honest with me. He never sugar coated things by saying that everything was going well, that things would get better the next time out, and stuff like that. He always told me the truth about things, without exception,” shared Beaulieu. “If he had something to say, he’d say it. He also gave me a pat on the back when things were going well. He found a happy medium between the two.”

Now that his son is plying his trade for Michel Therrien and his assistants, Jacques knows that Nathan’s career is in very capable hands. That being said, he’ll always be available for advice at a moment’s notice.

“Our family has always supported him. There have definitely been highs and lows, but the highs have far outweighed the lows. We’re proud of him, and we hope that he’ll continue to develop as both a hockey player and a person, too,” stressed Mr. Beaulieu, who has been very impressed by Nathan’s development over the last few years. “He’s become a real NHL player. Last year, he was still just a kid. I think he’s really starting to earn his spot. He has to continue working and proving to the organization that he deserves a permanent place in the lineup. ”

Coming off nearly a full season of NHL experience, and with a new contract in hand, Beaulieu should arrive at Canadiens training in September feeling confident and prepared. And, when he does return to La Belle Province and laces up his skates, he’ll surely be thinking of his father and their time spent together over the years.

“I really have to give him credit when it comes to the progress I’ve made,” concluded Beaulieu, who is set to begin his fourth year in the pro ranks in 2015-16.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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