You and head coach Guy Boucher both went to McGill University, where you were teammates on the hockey team. What was the Bolts head coach like as a teammate?
He was always very hard-working, very serious and very competitive about the game. We had a good relationship because we had known each other from a time before, because we were from the same neighborhood and played on the same youth hockey teams. We thought alike on a lot of things, not everything because we have different personalities obviously, but there were a lot of things that we saw the same way. We were linemates during my last year in college, which was his first year, but we really clicked well on the ice. In a way, it continued to make our relationship grow as hockey people and we tried different things as players and coaches and I think it helped in some way down the road.
How did your days as a player better prepare you for coaching?
When I was 18 years old I had a really great coach and I really liked the way he handled the preparation and the way he handled the team, and it was that year when I realized I wanted to be a coach. As a player, you always kind of think of something before they happen, so I was always paying attention to what coaches did and how players reacted to them on the ice. My playing career was more of a trial-and-error approach that helped me prepare to see what works and what doesn’t so I could be a coach one day.
Looking back, do you enjoy the game more from a playing standpoint or from a coaching viewpoint?
Watch the 5-Part Video Interview
You know, I really enjoyed both. I see the good things in both, but there are also some drawbacks. I don’t think it’s easier or harder to be one or the other, it’s just different. As a player, you have to worry about your own game and what you need to do. As a coach, there is a little more responsibility because you have to look out for everybody else and you’re not too concerned about yourself. The reality is different, but you still have to be focused and it’s still a hard job.
You’ve been awarded numerous honors including several Coach of the Year accolades as well as being inducted into McGill’s Hall of Fame. But tell us what it was like winning a bronze medal with Team Canada in 1991?
That was a neat experience. I thought I was pretty lucky to be one of the college kids invited to play in the Spengler Cup. It was really very exciting. To represent Canada was a big deal, and when I was old enough to understand how big hockey was, the year was 1972 right in the middle of that Canada-Russia series, so being on that team and going up top teams in the world was really a big thing. The whole event was quite an international tournament and there was definitely some mystique and a certain cache to it all.
Going back to your induction into McGill University’s Hall of Fame, what did that honor in particular mean to you?
I was pretty flattered and it was definitely a nice honor. I didn’t think too much of it before it happened, but then when I got the call I was humbled by it. McGill has been a big part of my life, being that I was there for 22 years as a player, as an assistant coach and then as a head coach. Now that I’m here in the states I still like to stay involved as part of the alumni association and I still send in my donations like everyone else. Looking back at the ceremony, it was a big event and an emotional day for me. A lot of the former players I coached and a lot of the guys all throughout the organization attended, and I invited former coaches and former staff members and perhaps even some people who didn’t get as much money as they should have for all the hard work they did when I was coach, so I wanted to make sure there were a lot of people there for me to thank because they were a big part of it. I also thanked the school for everything and told them how much it meant to me, so it was a very exciting event and a great time for me and my family.
You started coaching at the collegiate level, then moved up to the AHL and are now at the NHL. What have you learned at each of the different levels?
A lot. For me, all of those were important transitions and there were some things I think that I was at a bit of a disadvantage at from being a coach at the college level, but I was able to coach guys who were anywhere from 19 to 25 years old. For that though, I had a feel for how guys stepped up to be leaders and I knew how to handle those young guys, which allowed me to adapt more to the AHL. When I got to the pro level, I found that the schedule was more demanding but that the players were more available. In college, guys have to go to school so you really have to make sure you don’t overwhelm them. It really helped that I had Guy [Boucher] and Dan [Lacroix] there at the AHL level. They helped me get more of a feel for it and the workload for both me and the players. In the NHL, I really learned a lot working with Wayne Fleming. He really helped me out with a lot of stuff and was a great inspiration and really we were fortunate to have some success on the ice our first year here two seasons ago, and all of those wins we dedicated to him. Last year, you know, we learned a lot too even when things weren’t so great on the ice. We learned a lot about ourselves, our players, our character and how to handle things such as injuries and not winning games.
As a true Northerner and native of Quebec, how have you adjusted to life in Florida?
That’s been the easiest part. People have been very friendly and the organization has been very solid and I’ve met a lot of good and friendly people. I haven’t felt like from a professional standpoint it has been that different since even in Hamilton there were really good people and very competitive people and both have been really respectful environments.
Here obviously the weather is great and you know there might be some hurricanes, but you take the good with the bad and you get to live in an environment where there is a lot of good things like friendly people and people from all over the world. Being in Quebec when I go back, everyone tells me how great it is that I live in Florida, so now I finally get to see what that’s like and I can go back and tell them. My family loves it here though, and so far it’s been really great.