Clement Jodoin is a two-time gold medalist.

Clement Jodoin has coached Mario Lemieux (twice), Paul Coffey, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Alex Tanguay and anyone who wore the Montreal Canadiens’ uniform from 1997 to 2002.

Clement Jodoin has also come within 20 minutes of leading a team to the promised land of junior hockey: The Memorial Cup Tournament.

Now in his third year with the Lewiston Maineiacs, Jodoin has taken the team to the top of the league through the regular season.

His goal is clear: To send a message to the league that building a team from the ground up instead of wheeling and dealing players like pieces of meat is possible.

“We didn’t do any trades at Christmas,” Jodoin said, “and we find a way to win. Because in our philosophy, this organization is to work with the young players, to develop them and support them, and make them better hockey players. I just wanted to prove it to the league that you don’t have to make a thousand trades to finish first. You just have to work with your players, and work with them, and raise them, and after that you never know what can happen. It took three years, but we found a way.”

Here is one part of an interview with Jodoin conducted less than two weeks ago, before the team’s game against the St. John’s Fog Devils.

The second part of the interview, which concentrates more on his earlier years as a coach, can be found on Page D8.

How did you end up in Lewiston?
I was up in Germany when Matt McKnight called me. He called me at two o’clock in the morning to see if I was interested in taking the job in Lewiston. I said yes. Two hours after, Mark Just called me, it took 30 minutes to come up to an agreement. I said, ‘O.K., good, it’s done.’

What about Europe was so appealing?
One day I will be there again, even if it is just for one year. I try to enjoy every year. It’s one day at a time for now, though.

How did it first come about that you are part of Team Canada’s staff?
First of all, you have to apply for the job. I was supposed to coach with Ken Hitchcock 10 years ago, but I went to the National Hockey League so I declined the job. When I came up, I was supposed to go three years ago, but the fact that I took a new job (in Lewiston), I postponed my application. The second year, I did apply, knowing I had a good support staff in Ed and Jeff and a good organization, I knew I wasn’t in trouble. It’s not an ultimate goal, but it;s a great experience to be a part of the National Junior team. It’s like a Super Bowl. You make so many friends, you get to meet so many people.

Do you ever find it hard being both the general manager and head coach?
I would suggest that everybody in the league to be a GM and a coach and to get some good assistants. It’s not a question of power, it’s a question of knowing what’s going on. I know what’s going on with this hockey team, on and off the ice, in school. The key is to get good scouts that you can rely on. I came here only if I got both jobs. If I didn’t have both jobs, I wasn’t interested. Not at this level. For too many people, it’s a question of power. For me, it’s not a question of power, it’s knowing if a kid fits into the picture. If he doesn’t fit, I don’t care how good he is, I’m going to bring a kid in who will fit in our mold, in our style of play.

Does being away from home and from your family ever wear on you?
My wife has been very busy lately because she was studying to be an Osteopath, so she had to write a thesis and had a lot of work to do. Now, her thesis is done, she just graduated, it’s a different thing. It’s been a tough situation. Everybody has to express themselves in their own field. My daughters are expressing themselves, my wife is expressing herself. I know that she is happy for me that I am happy in what I’m doing. There’s no perfect situation, there’s no perfect world. It’s a question of making a decision. I came down to do something, to get something done, and when I’m gone I hope the team will still be here, will survive for the next 20, 25, 50 years. It’s a great product. I don;t have too many years left, so I am enjoying everything that I can.

So then is this it in Lewiston, or do you have a year or two left in you? What’s the plan?
There’s a proposal on the table, and I’m still looking at it. Nothing has been decided yet, but I’m having good conversations with Matt (McKnight). It’s good.

Are the Lewiston Maineiacs the best team in the QMJHL right now?
We’re probably not the most talented team, but we are the best-working team. The quality of our players make our team better. I would say the quality of your players raise the value of your hockey team. Our team is not one-dimensional. Our team is teamwork, and we’ve proved it since the beginning of the season.

Who’s the best Maineiacs’ player you’ve coached in your three years here?
I don’t like individual things, I like team things. So for me, this is the best team I’ve coached. It’s fun to coach these players. They’re executing, they’re listening. It takes time to implement what you want to bring up, and after three years, we have some results.

Aside from Mario Lemieux, does anyone else stand out in your mind?
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jody Shelley in Halifax. I had Midget-AAA with Lemieux, Momesso, Marc Bergevin, J.J. Daigneault, and after that in Halifax I had Giguere, Jody Shelley, Marc Chouinard and Alex Tanguay, and maybe some others I can’t remember. But it’s not a question of who you coach, it’s coming to your team at that point. Talented hockey players are going to be there no matter what. It’s what you can create with your hockey team that makes it impressive.

How long to you envision your coaching career lasting?
I want to coach until I am 65. If I’m healthy this is what I want to do. After that, I’ll say ‘O.K., now it’s time to go to something else.’ I still enjoy the game, I still have a passion for the game, I still have the patience for the game. I still can offer something to the game. The day I don’t have anything to offer is the day I’ll retire.


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