Lane Cormier is what leadership looks like.
The Moncton Wildcats captain recently suffered a broken nose and a cut to his hand that required nearly 20 stitches. Regardless, the 19-year-old forward from Hopewell, N.S., refused to leave the lineup.
“I was playing through pain,” Cormier said. “I guess adrenaline and instincts took over.”
Not to mention guts, heart and toughness.
“That’s just unheard of,” Moncton director of hockey operations Roger Shannon said. “I figured he might not play for months, and he never missed a game. He’s the ultimate teammate. Those stories about how he plays hurt travel in hockey. There wouldn’t be a team in this league that wouldn’t love to have him.”
Cormier’s commitment to the cause has been evident since he joined the Wildcats as a rookie in 2014. His efforts helped Moncton reach the past two QMJHL semifinals, but his presence is more important than ever in the current campaign. The Wildcats are going through a rebuilding season, and there are many challenges.
“Misery loves company and if you get a lot of people together and things aren’t well, people feed off each other,” Shannon said. “You have to have people around to keep each other motivated and keep people’s spirits up. You have to have rock-solid characters as your leaders. Lane is a leader we have to have in a transitional time like this. He’s the guy who keeps it together. It really is quite irrelevant if he ever scores goals.”
Cormier inherited his trademark toughness from his parents. His mother, Erin, is a school administrator who made sure her sons understood the importance of education. His father, Brian, is a carpenter whose work ethic was always evident whether he was “cutting firewood or doing chores around the house.” Cormier takes pride in being a combination of the two.
“They both work very hard,” he said. “I guess it kind of rubbed off on me.”
So did the influence of his older brother, Blake, a defenceman who played in the U.S. prep school ranks before suiting up for Bowdoin College.
“I grew up in the rink following him around,” Cormier said. “I talked to a few prep schools. I wasn’t really sure what the best decision would be. I play on the edge and that sometimes leads to fights and stuff like that. My style of game kind of fits the CHL more.”
That choice didn’t deter Cormier’s commitment to education. He’s currently enrolled in two courses at Crandall University.
“I like being in the classroom,” he said. “I’m more of a hands-on learner and it gives you a break from hockey.”
The Wildcats selected Cormier in the eighth round of the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft. A knee injury prevented him from attending that year’s training camp, but he produced 30 points in 16 games with the Weeks Major Midgets.
He also played for Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Challenge. He joined the Wildcats for good in 2014.
“We had two great years,” Cormier said. “This year there’s been a lot of ups and downs, but we have a great group of guys. As long as the effort is there. I always try to set the right example. I’m just always trying to be positive and making sure that I’m working hard.”
Cormier was invited to the New York Islanders rookie camp this past September, but he was the victim of an illegal hit during the QMJHL pre-season. The hit, which drew a suspension, put him out of the lineup and he missed his NHL camp. Still, that didn’t erase the accomplishment.
“It was definitely a great feeling,” Cormier said. “Nothing has ever come easy to me. I would like to get the invite again to an NHL camp and I’m going to work my hardest to get another.”
Cormier’s qualities have attracted interest from other QMJHL clubs. Captains armed with playoff experience are always in demand.
“To me, it would take an awful lot to part with a player like that,” Shannon said. “He’s an integral part of our team. You have to have guys like that if you’re going to win, and you have to have them if you’re going to lose a lot. His unwavering ability to compete is something every coach and general manager looks for.
“It’s as good an eighth-round pick as one could ever make. He’s given us three rock-solid seasons. He’ll be a pro at whatever he decides to do, whether he’s a hockey player or a fisherman.”
While Cormier wants another shot at the pro ranks, he insists education remains a “top priority.” That’s good news to the university teams who’ll be recruiting him during his overage season.
“I’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes,” Cormier said. “I’m going to play it by ear and see where it goes. I’ll see what options open for me in the next couple of years.”