Canadiens Notebook: Carey Price back on the ice after his surgery
|Montreal Gazette 17 Sep 2021 at 08:15|
Houle, who took over from Joël Bouchard as head coach of the Rocket, is doing his best getting to know the 27 players at a rookie camp as quickly as possible, as are his new assistant coaches Martin Laperrière and Kelly Buchberger, along with goalie coach Marco Marciano.
“Last night at the dinner instead of sitting at the coaches’ table we decided to mingle with the players and each coach sat at a different table, tried to get to know players,” Houle said. “To me, right now, if they play AHL or junior, it doesn’t matter. They’re part of the rookie camp team right now. We’re acting as we are a team here for the three practices and the three games that we’re going to have.
“I’m trying to get to know the kids the best I can … small talk here or there,” he added. “I’ve been looking up where they played, where they’re from, try to strike a small conversation while you skate around or at meal time or when you see them in the hallway. I believe it’s important to touch everybody on the team a little bit so they get to feel that the coach cares and I’m the type of person that cares a lot, so I’ll go out of my way to try to get to know someone.”
Houle started his coaching career at Clarkson University, where he played for four seasons. He spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Clarkson, followed by two seasons as head coach of the QMJHL’s Lewiston MAINEiacs and three seasons as head coach of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Houle then spent one season as head coach of the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors, followed by six seasons as an assistant coach with the Condors after they moved up to the AHL and became the Edmonton Oilers’ farm team before getting the job in Laval.
“For me, personal relationships with the players and staff members is a priority for me,” he said. “I think if you get to know the person for who they are as a person, not just a hockey player, they’ll work harder for you. That’s just what I believe as a coach and it’s worked well for me in the past and I think it’s important to build that trust factor with the players.”
Thursday was a big day for the young players as they hit the ice for the first time at rookie camp, following medical and physical tests on Wednesday. It was also a big day for Houle.
The Rocket coach’s father, Réjean, played 11 seasons with the Canadiens and won five Stanley Cups. He later became general manager of the team and is now president of the Canadiens alumni.
“Like I told the players yesterday, you wear the jersey with pride,” Houle said. “It’s a great organization. I was very proud this morning. My staff and I had some great meetings the last couple of weeks to get everything prepared. Practice plans, video and stuff like that. So it was nice to get on the ice and do a little bit of hockey instead of just doing computer and video. So it was nice this morning to be able to go on the ice with these young players.”
Houle also had some advice for the players about dealing with nerves at rookie camp.
“You just got to try to make them comfortable out there so they don’t squeeze the stick,” Houle added. “But they’re young kids … for sure they’re going to have some nerves and they’re all pretty excited to wear the jersey. We talked about wearing this jersey with pride and I think they will do that over this week.”
Rob Ramage, the Canadiens’ director of player development, believes there are lessons both sides can learn from what happened with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and his development before he left for the Carolina Hurricanes this summer, accepting a one-year, US$6.1-million offer sheet that Canadiens GM Marc Bergen decided not to match.
“KK had a great (training) camp (as a rookie) and we needed centremen so that was the decision to keep him there,” Ramage said Wednesday about Kotkaniemi making the jump directly to the NHL as an 18-year-old after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. “As a development guy, I like to see us cook them for a while before we get them to the NHL so that when they do get there they’re ready. So I think there’s lessons to be learned on both sides.
“I think (GM) Marc (Bergevin) mentioned the responsibility of the player and (head coach) Dominque (Ducharme) addressed that with our guys yesterday and Frankie (Bouillon) and I do that also with our prospects,” Ramage added. “Part of your development, part of your process to Montreal, journey to Montreal, is being able to self-evaluate. KK is a young guy and I’m sure he’s doing some self-evaluation now — he should be anyways. As players, we all need to look in the mirror from time to time. As I say to all my young players, the guy behind the bench, he controls your ice time, so you might want to listen to him and do what he says.”