In our final installment, we spoke with the backbone of the Lewiston Maineiacs’ organization. His interview went so well, we had to break it into two parts.

What was your first coaching experience like?
I was coaching Midget-AA in Ste. Hyacinthe. I was coaching 15-16-year-olds, and it was in 1975.

Were you a player-turned-coach, or are you a better coach than you were a player?
I was an average player, but I love the game, I enjoy the game, I have a passion for the game. I knew I didn’t have a future as a hockey player, so I started coaching.

What do you consider to be your first big break as a coach?

I was coaching Junior B for four years and after that I ended up coaching Midget-AAA in Montreal. I was coaching Mario Lemieux, Sergio Momesso, Jean-Jacques Daigneault, Marc Bergevin. That was probably where my big break came.

For one year in the NHL, you had Mario Lemieux on your team. With players of that caliber, did you find it was hard to teach them something new?
During those days, I would like to go back there now with the experience I’ve had since. We finished with 81 points and didn’t make the playoffs. Toronto, they finished with 55 points and they made the playoffs. It was the old format where the first four teams from each division made the playoffs, and their division was so weak. We were in, we got fired, but I don’t live in the past.

In general, how much of coaching in the NHL is pure coaching, and how much is reinforcing things the guys already know?
The NHL level is much more about player management. Most of them are talented, it’s a question of there’s so many games, so much time to travel, you’re always going. Everything has to be precise. It’s a question of putting in place your system, how you’re going to play.

Was it ever hard for you, going from Quebec to Montreal, even though you took a few years off?
When you’re a coach, you;re hired to be fired. Enjoy the ride, the days, the ride. It’s a cycle of two or three years. I stayed (in Montreal) for six years. It was good. I did everything, assistant coach, player development, video, I did everything, scouting. I’m using the experience to be a better coach.

How did the chance with Halifax first come about?

I was coaching in the American Hockey League and my assistant said that it would be a very good thing if a team from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was coming down. I talked with guys from the Moosehead company, and I jumped on the bandwagon. As an expansion team, it was great. We did well in our first year, and after that it was a question of drafting and other things. It is something I will never forget.

What do you think was the best series you coached with Halifax?
The best series? When we missed the Memorial Cup by 20 minutes against Chicoutimi. The day before, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Alex Tanguay got injured. That changed the whole game. We came close, very, very close.

What brought about your leaving Montreal?

It was a coaching change. Bob Gainey brought in all of the former Canadiens’ players, and I think that’s normal. It’s part of the game. You trust the people you’ve played and worked with before. For one year, I was being paid by Montreal. The only point that bothered me is that he told me in August, so I couldn’t coach that season. I think it’s been very good for me.


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