HALLOWELL – Been there, done that – almost.

With his team winning the Memorial Cup final, Lewiston Maineiacs’ 20-year-old forward Simon Courcelles appeared to reach the pinnacle of his young hockey career last May.

But the season was not perfect – his Quebec Remparts won the Cup after finishing second in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s playoffs to Cup host Moncton.

On the eve of the President’s Cup final series, Courcelles is looking squarely into the face of redemption.

“I kind of missed out on that last year,” Courcelles said. “It’s my first goal, it’s the team’s first goal, we want to win the President’s Cup.”

Modest beginnings

At 5 feet, 8 inches, Courcelles cracked the Quebec Remparts’ lineup as a 16-year-old, but played sparingly.

“After about 30 games, I went back to Saskatchewan to play in Junior A,” Courcelles said. “I thought getting more experience against guys that were 20-years-old at the time would help.”

The following year was a down year in the Remparts’ cycle, having been a Memorial Cup host the year before. Courcelles, with experience under his belt, made the team, and continued to grow within the game of hockey, if not in stature.

That only made him work harder.

“It’s all about attitude,” Courcelles said. “You come down, you work your (butt) off, and whatever happens, happens. If you’re willing to work with determination and put in the work, good things are going to happen for you and for your team.”

Last season, the Remparts made it to the Memorial Cup again, with Courcelles wearing the captain’s ‘C.’

But they made it without winning the President’s Cup, indicative of winning the QMJHL playoff title. That honor went to Moncton, which was the Memorial Cup host, allowing the QMJHL’s runners-up – the Remparts – to advance as well.

“This time, we have to win,” Courcelles said. “You show up, and there’s no break. You know that this time, if you lose, it’s the end.”

‘Yo, Reg’

Three months after savoring his team’s Memorial Cup triumph, Courcelles learned he was traded to Lewiston.

“I remember, I expected a trade, but not Lewiston, not at all,” Courcelles said.

Once in Lewiston, though, it was clear that Courcelles brought more than just talent to the roster.

“He’s a player you didn’t like when he was playing against you,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “But he’s a player you like when he’s playing with you. His whole attitude, on and off the ice, his whole attitude toward the game, toward his teammates, he’s there for this team.”

The Maineiacs started to see Courcelles in that same light. So, too, did the coaches.

“He’s like Reggie Dunlap, you know,” Jodoin said with a laugh, referencing Paul Newman’s character in the hockey movie Slap Shot. “He’s very intelligent, and he always wants to know why. He won’t challenge you, but he has to know why, why we’re doing this, why we’re doing that. He’ll always ask you why, and he just wants an answer. As long as you give him an answer, he has no problems. There are different ways to see the game, different approaches, but he’s always there.”

The difference between Courcelles and the coaching staff?

His office is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide and has multi-colored paint in streaks across an otherwise white floor.

And while the 20-year-old plies his trade, sometimes upwards of 10,000 people are watching him work.

“He’s born as a leader,” Jodoin said. “He doesn’t complain, and he knows how to gather everybody. This is a key. There’s no money for that. He’s been a hell of a good addition for us.”

Leading the way

One thing Courcelles didn’t get to enjoy in Quebec last season was a swig from the President’s Cup.

He’s hoping that changes, but he also sees some similarities between the Remparts and this year’s Maineiacs.

“The chemistry on a team is the same,” Courcelles said. “Over the years, I’ve gained so much experience. You come to realize, no matter what, you have to have good chemistry on the team. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone on the team, but when you get on the ice, you have to get along with the guy, you have to work with him.”

Courcelles’ adaptability and ability to motivate his teammates is a big part of the Maineiacs’ chemistry.

“He’s going to talk to them,” Jodoin said. “Right away he’s going to create an atmosphere. He has an aura. He knows how to bring back his line to get everyone to play together. That kind of thing, not everybody has that.”

Nor does everybody have the chance to go to two consecutive Memorial Cup tournaments with two different teams. Courcelles has that chance, if he and the rest of the Maineiacs can win four more games.

Courcelles said he is considering coaching when he is done playing hockey, but that, he hopes, is a long way out.

“It’d be awesome, something definitely in the back of my mind,” Courcelles said. “I’m hoping I’ll play hockey for a bit, still, though.”

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