Bruno Gervais was a fan favorite during his time as a New York Islander and much of that was due to the way he embraced Long Island. Gervais endeared himself to the fans not only through his play but by the way he gave back to the community.
It was a two- way street, as it was clear that Gervais loved his time as an Islander. When asked what his favorite memory from his days in the blue and orange was his first response was one word, "millions."
Gervais was one of the youngest attendees at the Islanders Alumni Weekend in November. He shared that as one of the "new retired guys" he could straddle worlds old and new. He could catch up with the retired guys like Dave Scatchard and Clark Gillies, while watching Josh Bailey and Matt Martin, two former teammates still playing in the NHL.
Bailey's name came up when Gervais was asked about his favorite memories as an Islander. Besides the on ice standouts like first game, first goal, first playoff game, etc., Gervais said the year he lived in the "Frat House" with Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Tim Jackman, Nate Thompson and Thompson's black lab was at the top of his Islanders memories.
"What you miss the most is the teammates, the locker room," Gervais said. "I was lucky enough to play with great veterans like Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Garth Snow and Mike Sillinger. You learn from these guys, and you grow up with a lot of young kids that are now veterans in the league or retired. Those are the moments you miss the most; the team events, the locker room talk, the daily life of seeing all the guys."
In his first alumni gathering with the Islanders, Gervais was grateful to the team for organizing the event that gave him a reason to come back to the place he spent the majority of his NHL career. Gervais retired from professional hockey in the summer of 2017 after spending the final two years of his career playing in Germany. Since then, his life has stayed rooted in hockey and helping others.
Gervais, his wife and three kids - all under the age of five - currently live in Quebec, where he works as an analyst on RDS, a Quebec-based sports television network. Gervais missed the first half of the weekend because he was working at RDS, but was so committed to coming to alumni weekend that he was out of the house by 4:30 am to catch his flight to get to Brooklyn for Saturday's game.
Talking to Gervais made it easy to see why he has transitioned so easily into the media side of the game. Knee injuries early in his career forced him to confront the fact there would someday be a life after professional hockey. He first tried his hand at media, a career he didn't necessarily consider until discovering he had an aptitude for it.
"I did a little bit of media while I was playing and every summer I would come back and I would do a little bit more," Gervais said. "It seemed like an easier transition to jump in and just talk about what you see. I ended up loving it a lot more than I thought I would."
His true passion lies in being able to use his platform as a former NHL player to influence the lives of young hockey players. He credits his experiences working with Islanders community relations department with instilling a desire to give back to his community, especially the children in it.
After Gervais and his wife welcomed their third child last year, he was able to settle into a routine with his family that allowed for him to start helping out coaching at the Pee Wee level for a AAA team in Quebec. It's the program that he grew up playing for which made it all the more meaningful.
"While I was playing I told them, when I'm done I'm going to give back," Gervais explained.
The team that Gervais helps to coach is made up of 11 and 12 year olds. He said it's a great age because of how willing the kids are to learn and listen yet the game is still just fun for them. His coaching style is refreshing and clearly stems from his desire to positively influence the next generation of hockey players.
"It's not about the strategy. It's not building a system to beat the other team. I like it but not as much as building those relationships and helping someone one-on-one," Gervais said. "That is why the assistant coach role is something that really interests me."
If there is anything that epitomizes Gervais' desire to give back to young hockey players, it would be his summer hockey camp. His camps are small in size purely so that he can focus on providing the attendees with the most attention possible. As he looks forward to the future of the program, Gervais will continue to keep the enrollment small - "it's not about making money or having tons of players on the ice."
"I get to know them really well," he said. "I keep in touch and they come back so we can work on things. We get to build a relationship."
Evenly though only he's only recently retired, Gervais has continued to teach the next generation of hockey players the importance of not only being a good player, but a good person. That's a lesson that he learned from his time on Long Island and the generations of Islanders before him.