Meagher

The pride of the Lions

Lions coach Jon Goyens turned 33 this week and there was much to celebrate.

 His birthday bash came just days after his Lions won the Quebec midget AAA hockey championship in convincing fashion up in Rivière-du-Loup.

 Next stop is the Rock, where the Lions will try to win the TELUS Cup national midget crown next week in St.John’s.

 The last time the Lions accomplished that feat was in 1992 when Blair Mackasey guided them to gold in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The year before, Mackasey’s crew won a bronze in Calgary.

 Those were heady days for the Lions, who also won national crowns in 1981 and 1985 and placed third in 1984 when the championship tourney was still known as the Air Canada Cup.

It’s a much different midget AAA league now. More teams, smaller territories, so the talent pool is thinner than it once was.

 It also means grooming local talent is more important than ever.

This season the Lions’ fortunes were bolstered by two key out-of-region forwards – Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Drouin – who helped the team immensely.

 So what locally-produced talent is coming down the pipeline? Hard to know for sure, but local teams came up empty last weekend at the Dodge Cup provincial championships in the Mauricie.

Goyens’ take on the results?

 “Everyone is living up to everyone’s scouting report on Lac St. Louis kids,” he said. “We’re considered soft.”

Ouch!

Or as Goyens so aptly puts it, “How many times do we hear this (about a player)? ‘Oh, the kid doesn’t compete.’”

 Former Lions sniper Louis Leblanc, a self-motivated talent who’d go through a wall to score a goal, was a notable exception, said Goyens.

Leblanc had what Mackasey and others call the “compete factor.” It’s hockey speak for grit and desire.

So few talented players have it, and so few organizations know how to foster it.

 Too many misguided coaches think holding an intense practice is all about screaming and yelling at the players to skate faster, Goyens added.

 One reason the Lions were so successful this season was the fact the coaching staff stoked the competitive fires of the players at daily skates.

Said Goyens: “That competitive environment is what allowed our guys to do it (in games) on a regular basis.”

In other words, what is being taught to young hockey players is just as important as how it is being taught.

 Until there is a significant change at the minor levels, don’t expect a medal haul from this region anytime soon.

Hopefully the Lions will set a bold new tone for the region next week when they head to Newfoundland in search of a national crown.

jmeagher@montrealgazette.com

2 comments

  1. By hockey parent

    First of all, congratulations to the Lions, and good luck to them in Newfoundland!

    However John, the atmosphere of the Lions seems to contradict what you you have advocated in your “Minor hockey’s dark little secret”.   In watching the Lions play, it is obvious they often use what we call the “short bench”, even to the point of telling some players to undress in the middle of a game!  If midget hockey is still to be considered “minor”, then I would assume the same principles should apply to them also.  

    On the other hand, we may consider the AAA level a special case, and treat the young players like juniors, with the use of out of region players, trades, cuts and benchings.  If that is the case, where do we address your concerns? At the different age levels (bantam, midget, etc.) or at the triple or double or single letter levels?

    Let’s not be hypocritical.

  2. By Anonymous

    without the addition of the two outside area forwards and goaltender the lions are a completely different team. Perhaps goyens loses more games and local area kids play more. Perhaps, the gm and coach needed to make the aquisitions from outside to deal with the enormous pressure to win from ownership and the fans. C mon get real. But wait…. I have seen atom bb teams run by coaches with just as much hysterical self importance so I should not be surprised by mr goyens simple remarks on the quality of lac st louis minor hockey development and the ” moves ” that were made to make the lions a winning franchise. The hockey world is a buzz about mr goyens winning coaching ways. the phone must be ringing off the hook.

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