A recipe… available!

Steve Turcotte
Le Nouvelliste

Une recette… disponible!

The recent triumph of Quebec at the Canada Games in the men’s hockey has not yet finished talking. Have to say that a shortage of 32 years is a long time!

Hockey Québec presents this beautiful large coin as the result of reforms put in place a few years ago to solidify its structure reserved for the elite. It is a legitimate one.

Impossible to deny the impact of a small program, school of the Mauricie region, which has formed five players in the lot.

The guardian William Rousseau, defenders Jacob Guévin and Guillaume Richard, and forwards Zachary Bolduc and Anthony Bedard, are in fact part of the famous first vintage of Denis Francoeur, who has set up his “laboratory” a decade ago. At the time, he went out of the major junior after a painful experience at Bathurst, he wanted to enligner his career otherwise. He took under his wing a score of novice, after having made the tour of arenas in the area. Three years later, a dozen of them have been the pioneers of the program of the Panthers of the CMI. Five have resulted in the team driven by Martin Laperrière and Frédéric Lavoie, who has been a tournament without a flaw in Red Deer. Not the worst ratio, thank you, especially for a small region such as the Mauricie!

“It is sure that it is a great source of pride for the program. This is only the starting point, we will hear about a lot of us in the next few years, because other good players are coming,” says the great manitou of the program that was merged with the Green and Gold of the Seminary of Trois-Rivières last year.

Francoeur remembers to have heard of ridicule when he launched the program. The next tactic, he left to the other. He preferred to put the emphasis on the development of the individual. “Some people were wondering where I was going with my cones. But me, I knew very well where I was going. This program is the fruit of 30 years in the hockey. Thirty years of discussions, experiments, studies how the others were. When I started the program, I had a very clear vision and that vision still guides our actions. There have been adjustments along the way, but the vision is the same.”

He willingly accepts to deliver its recipe. “People say that we develop the skills but it is much more than that. Of course, we want to fill the toolbox of our players. It takes that to be successful with the games high-speed. 80% of our workouts are focused on the puck, his control and his movement. But what we’re doing here first and foremost, is to develop the intelligence in the game of our players,” argues Francoeur. “It’s just as well, it is the quality number one now sought-after in the hockey. Then, we work on the skills, and the attitude of our players. It hits the nail, again and again. In order to achieve good results, it takes volume. And patience.”

There is talk of 130 practices by year from the M-12. By adding the matches, these young people eat ice in profusion. “In Québec, a person does not practice as much as we do. When I was in junior, we were happy if we managed to 100 practices in the year. The more you repeat, the more your chances of success increase.”

For the rest, not too much of a straitjacket. Players are invited to evolve, both in attack and defence, particularly in the early years. The concepts of team are rarely discussed. The power play, for example, is almost never practiced! “We do not seek victory at any price, even if we win our broad range of games. It seeks the development at any price. It involves placing the players in all kinds of situations. Of course at the beginning, it took me an adjustment. In junior, you do everything to win, you set up systems accordingly. And it is very intoxicating! Here, we let the players go. I’m more a developer than a coach.”

That put his ball on the offensive first and foremost. Which is ironic, because his best years in the junior, Francoeur was deemed to be a trainer defensive! “This is Marc Lachapelle (journalist at Journal de Montreal) that had me glued to this label and it was completely false. I led the last team that has reached the plateau of 375 goals. No one has touched it to this plateau in almost 20 years! We had good results on the defensive, because we often had the puck. Yes, I had expectations for my players when we were in our zone. This is normal. But the emphasis has always been on the attack.”

Francoeur has no championship to his credit in the junior, but he has helped many players to reach the NHL. Some were completely off the radar of scouts before falling to his hands. Guys like Alexandre Burrows, Pascal Dupuis, Marc-Andre Bergeron owe much to him and they are the first to recognize it.

Despite these successes, Francoeur has never been approached by Hockey Quebec. Many men of hockey are called to deliver lectures, to guide the young coaches on courses. Not him. The success of both collective and individual Panthers in recent years has not attracted the attention of people in place in Quebec, who ensure that the overall development of our elite. “Me, I’m an open book. In addition to training players, I have trained many coaches with the Panthers in recent years. If other people want to emulate what we do in our home, I have nothing against. I think we can very well adapt the formula to a region, for example.”

The recipe for one of the best developers of the last 30 years is therefore available. Notice to interested parties…

A reconciliation beneficial between the civil and the school

It was a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to see players trained by the school to be chosen on provincial teams.

Hockey Québec has chosen to broaden his horizons and to initiate a reconciliation. This small dose of humility will serve the children at the end of the line.

“This will be good for all”, slice Denis Francoeur. Plus there will be collaboration between the two networks, the more there will be profits. Working in a vacuum, is never the most productive.

The last few years show that there is room for everyone in the sun, he believes. “The emergence of the school allows more young people to have access to the volume of qualified coaches. It is sure that it will help produce more players. We have already begun to see changes at this level. It’s just the beginning…”

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