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SLBAM: It’s not just field hockey parents who are sick

What’s up gang. We’re nearing the end of the field hockey season with the draft and the free agent period. The number of questions for my column remains as strong as ever, and I thank you very much for that.

Don’t be shy about asking your question on The Bench with Mitch every week.

The development to win and perform at the junior level is better than ever and the players have a lot to do with it. There’s a lot of money, stakes and time invested in young players now that their tool bag is much more stocked than it used to be.

More tools doesn’t mean a better toolbox either. But the players are making an impact at junior level and, I’d say, have an easier time making the transition to the AHL.

The players are better today than they’ve ever been.

I like what I see, even if in Quebec we’d like to see more players drafted, but I won’t get into that. Field hockey has gone global now, so it’s normal to see players from all over the world, and in some places there are a few less.

Just look at the top-ranked players from 2010 to 2023. Seven are from Canada, three from the OHL, one from the WHL and three from the QMJHL. Otherwise we have one Russian, two Americans, one Swiss, one from Sweden and one from Slovakia.

The picture is even more global when we look at the top 3 since 2010. All this to say that there’s no one winning recipe, but that you always have to find ways of improving your product.

The knowledge was less 30 years ago than it is now and also, the distractions.

Take a player who doesn’t score a goal for X amount of time. He’ll no longer be teased only by his teammates and coach. But he’ll be on the front pages of newspapers, social networks and on television.

Over and over again, his face will be the talk of the hour, until the next goal. This can sometimes take longer than expected and, above all, put additional unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.

Whether or not this is understood is relative, as some players will have changed their “game” and it doesn’t really fit with this type of player. At that point, it’s easy to sit down with him, talk to him and show him video footage of what he used to do well, but no longer does.

For example, he dribbles too much with the puck before his shot, allowing the goalkeeper to get a good look at the puck, or on a cross-ice pass, instead of shooting immediately, he’ll take his time and give the goalkeeper that extra split second to make his move and stop the puck.

Conversely, we sometimes speak of a player who hasn’t changed a thing, but for X/Y reason, luck isn’t on his side.

As a trainer, we’ll try to put him in as many situations as possible so that he succeeds. Often, coaches will even push the player to get on the ice for a 5v6, because at that level, they only need one goal and they’re off again.

There’s no science behind why, but that’s the way it is. So those are the two most common ways of doing it. It’s all going to depend on how the player is on and off the ice.

A little 2 for 1 or so. I love it.

For the first part. It all depends on what you consider “settling the case” for the number 1 goalie. In the sense that the CH window isn’t immediately open.

So should we be doing everything we can right now to make sure we get our hands on a top-notch goalie (if we don’t believe Samuel is a #1)? I don’t think so.

Even less so knowing that several goalies will become free agents in the next few years and that, when the time comes, it’s quite possible to trade for them with the bank of picks and young players the Habs have.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s waiting because there’s no hurry. But there’s nothing to stop you looking at what’s available, and above all, drafting goalies, because it’s not as if you can develop a whole bunch of them every year.

But I’ll be honest, if a Dustin Wolf was available, I’d go get him and let the future decide. But I use my choices to build up a bank of goalkeepers.

To answer the second part, I think I’ve answered it with the first, but I’ll add this.

As far as I’m concerned, Samuel has shown that he can be good, and we need to give him the chance to continue being seen, because who knows, he could become a top-notch goalie, and the CH would be a big winner. But for my part, I think they need a #1 in three years, and until then, Samuel is their goalie.

Now, here’s my scenario in the event that CH management deems Samuel not to be a #1 (he would still have had three years to sell).

I take chances this season and next year with draft picks to draft goalies who could become a #1. Because no matter what, you’ve got to build for the future, and we’ve seen how hard it is to get a good goalie, and for a long time.

I’d also build my team around being able to acquire a goalie via the trade market if possible and not as a free agent.

Why trade and not free agent? Just looking at the price of free agents is enough for me. With the exception of Carey Price, there aren’t any $10 million goalies, and the league seems to be heading that way.

Just look at the rumor of Hellebuyck wanting to be the highest-paid goalie in NHL history. He’s going to come in at that salary at the age of 31-32. I love him, but to me, that’s a no.

So trade if possible first, since the draft picks won’t be ready yet.

I saved it for last, because honestly, I could write a book about it, both positively and negatively, unfortunately. I’m glad the article came out, as this has caused others to come out left and right.

Take women’s field hockey, for example, or even closer to home, where I was lucky enough to coach for a season, in Magog with Stéphane Robidas or former president Renaud Légaré. The sports world in general is sick.

I’m lucky enough to attend soccer several times a week, as three of my four children play. The oldest plays in the competition. If you ever see a gentleman sitting in the corner of the soccer field, away from everyone else and in the shadows, that’s me.

Last year, my daughter was double overmatched in soccer and I wanted to mingle with the parents to see the dynamic. Not only were the parents screaming their heads off at the side referee (line judge, I believe, the name), but the youngster (because it happened a lot) was barely 15.

It was comments that if it had been my daughter as referee, the parents wouldn’t have liked me coming to talk to them. I’ll go as far as to say that many parents were yelling at the girls on the other team. Not to mention the comments on social networks or sent directly to the coach, and the list goes on.

So no, field hockey isn’t the only one.

I’m glad it’s all out in the open, but once again, there are no names. Without wanting to make a public wash of it, we have a duty to denounce the whole thing, because if we don’t, we’re allowing it to happen, and as Renaud mentioned above, nothing has changed since 2009.

I don’t remember long after 2009 when I had players coming to blows on the bench (we’re talking peewee) because they weren’t happy that one hadn’t made the pass to the other on the five-on-three and the parents in the stands didn’t like me rolling the bench at that age either.

The number of comments I got could easily have been taken to court. I’m sorry I was young, because right now, it would have been out of place.

We only have to think of Arnaud Dubé’s story this winter in the media. Yes, Arnaud has his share of faults, let’s face it. Sometimes, when you climb the ladder, you can change to make sure things run smoothly, and sometimes you can learn from the wrong people.

The newspapers have been excellent at washing him clean publicly.

But what I sincerely deplore about this story, for example, is that the same thing is going on. Everyone knows what’s behind it, even the local journalists, but unfortunately nobody wants to stick their necks out, because everyone thinks it’s normal.

For Arnaud, it was quite simply a vendetta, and not just by the parent who was appointed. But from the same people who are there and who do the same thing every 4-5 years, but who don’t succeed and only go bigger and bigger.

As long as no one is naming names, don’t expect change.

I could even finish by adding that the parents involved don’t help either. No, I’m not putting everyone in the same boat, but you certainly have 4-5 names that come to mind quickly.

I remember being threatened, when I was a Midget Espoirs, that I absolutely had to take x number of players, or that if I didn’t correct a league suspension (I had nothing to do with that), that things were going to go badly.

At the time, we were one of the only teams that filmed our games, so I was able to send it to Hockey Québec and it was corrected (because the kid didn’t deserve to be suspended), but if I hadn’t had the film, I’d surely have lost my job.

At one point after a game, I even kept voice mails and texts from a parent who was involved in the organization, because I figured I could use them if things ever went sour.

To put it in context, we’re playing a game in northern Quebec. Our equipment man always brings an extra game shirt in case something happens. Players are responsible for their complete equipment and for taking their game socks and sweaters.

About 15 minutes before the game, my captain comes up to me and says, ” Coach, I left my sweater in the bedroom at home. I thought it was a shame, but there was nothing we could do. I tell him, “Thanks to our equipment man, he always has an extra sweater.

He was more than happy because he thought he wouldn’t be able to play because he didn’t have a sweater.

At the same time, our team chemistry was incredible. The player who forgot his jersey was our captain. So between coaches, we look at each other and say, we’re going to make a joke and stick a surprise C on another player who had been teasing us since the start of the season.

He’d say I’m the real captain of the team, but I don’t need a letter on my shirt. Everyone was laughing, and had been for a few days.

So when we do the presentation in the bedroom. Everyone started laughing, even our captain who had forgotten his sweater. Five minutes into the game, the C no longer stuck to the sweater.

Our player finally comes back to the bench, throws us the sticker and laughs: I don’t need a letter on my jersey to be a captain, and everyone brays.

In short, we won that game, and to this day it remains one of the pivotal games of our season in my humble opinion, as we went in search of an even better dynamic than before.

Anyway, the game ends, I get back on the bus and finally see my voicemail full and a dozen text messages from someone in the organization.

Basically, it started with call me back as soon as possible, we need to chat, if you don’t call me right away, we’ll chat when you get to the office (I’ve spared the sacking and the like, which are unacceptable). Finally I call without really understanding why.

The players all enter the bus at the same time, everyone is festive and I learn that, according to reports, I deliberately removed the C from my captain’s jersey.

To humiliate him even more, I’d given him an alternate jersey (since he’d been playing a midget AAA game, his 10th, I believe, at that point in the season).

And I said to him: Please call your guy, ask him what happened and if you have any questions, call me back.

In short, stories like that are everywhere, and it’s not for nothing that after my third year, when I saw how everything was shaping up, I started my interview process before Christmas to go to Western Canada.

We agreed at the end of the year that it was in everyone’s best interest that I didn’t stay, as I was being very disruptive, and a few days later I was in Boston and then announced my signing as an assistant coach in Western Canada.

Unfortunately, as long as no one is naming names (me first with the past, but not the future), we can’t expect any changes.

It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve lost my passion for coaching and my interest in teaching at the minor field hockey level. Because you need a psychologist more than you need to know how to do a 50-minute practice.

Fortunately for me, I’ve learned over time, and things like that don’t happen with me anymore, and I’m very proud of that. I’ve never let the market get to me, and I’m not going back to that chair.

I’m going to end on this note since I’m seeing people’s comments and I’ve fallen off my chair. I know Jérôme and Hockey Prospect personally, having worked for them before making the jump to the QMJHL as a scout with Val-d’Or.

But at some point, can people in the comments please compare apples to apples? We don’t want Mishkov, because he’s in Russia, but we don’t mind getting Simashev or But, who are excellent, by the way.


I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate my good friend Éric Bouchard, who will be able to continue coaching in the QMJHL, but closer to home.

He accepted the assistant-coaching position with the Val-d’Or Foreurs last year with a two-year contract, but with a clause that if a team close to his wife came forward, he could listen.

Nobody wants to be away from their family.

I’m not surprised that his phone rang last year, because several teams wanted him. I’m not surprised that this season, with the potential and talent he has (he’ll be a leader in the league very soon), he was able to get closer to home.

It’s been a big year for Eric, and he’ll soon be announcing another great thing that’s happened to him that I can’t say at the moment, but which is very rare. Anyway, hats off to you my friend, and it’s great to see you climbing the steps one by one.

See you next week and thanks again. Follow me on social networks @Mitch_Giguere.

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