VAL-D’OR, Quebec – Marc-Andre Cliche was scared. Sure, he’d played hockey away from home before, even for an entire season.

But never in the United States.

Chad Denny was equally unsure. In Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, the common thought was that racism directed at Native Americans was rampant the further into Maine you traveled.

Pierre-Luc Faubert remembers just being happy to hear his name called in the third round.

Each of the three players made their way up to the stage at the Palais des Sports. They slipped into a fresh Lewiston Maineiacs’ jersey, posed for a picture, and went to the team’s hospitality area – the first three players selected by an organization fresh off a move from Sherbrooke, Quebec, to Lewiston, Maine.

“We started here, and now we finished it here,” Denny said.

Wednesday, at the Air Creebec Centre in Val-d’Or – formerly the Palais des Sports – the three were among the first four players to hoist the President’s Cup and slather it with kisses.

The circle is complete.

All three were pivotal in the team’s success, not just this season, but in the first four seasons of the organization in Lewiston.

“It’s been four building-process years,” Cliche said. “It all came down to one game, and now there’s no words to explain the feeling.”

The city of Val-d’Or was an unlikely starting point for the three youngsters. Located in the northwest corner of Quebec, the “Valley of Gold” is a blue-collar mining town, not unlike what Lewiston used to be with its textile industry. The people work hard. There is a mix-match of backgrounds, too. Many people in Val-d’Or are aboriginal, of First Nation descent.

None of those characteristics are unlike the Maineiacs.

Located in southeastern Maine, Lewiston is a city emerging from a post-industrial meltdown. The players on the Maineiacs work hard every day, and come from many different walks of life.

“Some teams are soft, but our key is that we always work hard,” Cliche said. “We showed it tonight.”

Almost exactly four years after Cliche, Denny and Faubert stared wide-eyed at a regional map, trying to figure out just where Lewiston was, the three have helped the team that drafted them upend the Val-d’Or Foreurs in that same building to capture the team’s first title.

Some may consider it happenstance. Other see it as a fluke.

But not the Maineiacs.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “I would call that destiny. It’s a destiny.”


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