Laval bench boss Joël Bouchard ready to prepare for launch of the Rocket’s season

“I look forward to strapping on the helmet and lacing up the skates and getting in the trenches with my staff,” coach Bouchard said. “Every day I think about first responders and those in hospitals. I think about hockey players too because there are so many good players out there not getting to play, looking for a contract, we are lucky to be on the ice and to work at our craft.”

It has been a strange time for everyone during this pandemic but Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard has kept busy moving forward and being ready when the time arrives for training camp and the start of the American Hockey League season. That is in the offing as the AHL season will start as of February 5 and Laval’s training camp will soon be underway. “The last eight months have been strange overall for everybody,” Joël Bouchard said. “I think we’ve just been rolling with the punches, our situation isn’t any different than others. There is light at the end of the tunnel because we’ll be back on the ice soon.” Since the shutdown of the season last March, Bouchard has kept busy and in communication with his staff and players but not from a strategy or hockey talk way, more so to make certain that everyone is doing okay. “Not just our players but players I have coached in the past, making sure everyone was okay,” coach Bouchard said. “They (the players) were always open to call me and they would to get things off their chest or to speak and I was happy about that. It wasn’t about X’s and O’s but more how are you doing.” When the Rocket open camp, it could be one of the most competitive since the arrival of the team. “Now the situation is a little different,” he said. “When we started (2018-19 season) we signed a lot of guys from the outside, older players from other organizations and guys I knew personally that I liked and knew they would be troopers. We also had some prospects like Cale Fleury and Jake Evans. Now we are bringing back players that we’ve built relationships with and have a connection.” That connection saw players like forwards Yannick Veilleux and Laurent Dauphin along with defenseman Gustav Olofsson re-up with the organization when they could have tested the free agent waters. It is going to be an interesting campaign as well since Laval will be playing in an all-Canadian division along with the Belleville Senators, the Toronto Marlies and the Manitoba Moose. “That’s the reality of 2021,” he said. “I’ve told the Habs, I’ve told everybody give me ice, boards pucks and players and I’ll do whatever you ask. If that means a certain time of playing the same teams, I understand my job very well. That is to work with the young guys and give them enough mileage in practices and games to be ready to help the Habs in a very short term. That is my mandate; it always is but this year even more so to help those players knocking at the door of the NHL.” There has also been a change of address for the Rocket for this year as they will be based out of the Bell Centre, not Laval’s Place Bell. “Any goal that you set for yourself starts with a dream, starts with a vision,” he said. “These guys will get to play in the building that they are targeting to play in down the road. The reality is every player sitting in front of me at the Bell Centre wants to be an NHL player on that ice wearing a Habs’ jersey. If they’re not then we are going to have a talk.” Bouchard is a hands on coach, a mentor and educator who can hardly wait to get to be with his staff and players back on the ice. “I look forward to strapping on the helmet and lacing up the skates and getting in the trenches with my staff,” he said. “Every day I think about first responders and those in hospitals. I think about hockey players too because there are so many good players out there not getting to play, looking for a contract, we are lucky to be on the ice and to work at our craft.”

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