The Abitibi region is literally split down the middle. On one side sit the fans of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. On the other, you will find their archrival Val-d’Or Foreurs. Their head-to-head match-ups in the War of the 117 pit dogs against miners.
You would be hard-pressed to find an available seat in either building when these two clubs face-offs and their devoted fans are always fervent supporters.
Tracing back the roots of this rivalry isn’t hard at all. As soon the Huskies were born in 1996, then GM Sylvain Denis set the tone for what would ensue with one simple quote preceding their first encounter with the Foreurs: “This is going to be a war!”
While both sides respect one another, there remains a visceral hatred between the two clubs. The following story may date back to 2002, but let’s face it not much has changed since.
Having just been drafted in the second round by the Huskies, forward Brent Aubin happily arrives at his first camp wearing something green. His head coach Bob Mongrain then sends him a clear message by saying: “Take that off. We never wear green here. If during a season we lose every game except those against the Foreurs, that season would be considered a success.”
Speaking of success, natives of Abitibi have been especially spoiled during the playoffs. Led by Samuel Henley, Anthony Mantha and Guillaume Gélinas in 2014, the Foreurs would go on to win the President’s Cup. Two years later, it was the Huskies turn as Francis Perron, Chase Marchand and Jean-Christophe Beaudin did the same for Rouyn-Noranda. Ironically, the credit for that title would also be due to three players from Val-d’Or! Grinder Mathieu Boucher and Zachary and Jeremy Lauzon also contributed to the victory. As for the Foreurs, they weren’t about to pass up a third Lauzon brother, drafting Emile Lauzon in the fourth round this past summer. Last month, Boucher was named the captain of the Huskies, filling the shoes of Jeremy Lauzon who made the jump the Boston Bruins’ organization.
Once again this season no less than 10 meetings are on the schedule for these two teams. During Rivalry Week, Mario Durocher’s squad will face Gilles Bouchard’s crew on October 13 in Rouyn-Noranda before doing it all over again the next night at the other end of highway 117.
The last thing either coach or their players want is to end that weekend without a win. On top of the four points in the standings on the line, the pride of both franchises will always be on the line as well!
Players to look at this season
Forwards: Felix Bibeau, Raphaël Harvey-Pinard and Peter Abbandonato
Defencemen: Jacob Neveu and Zachary Lauzon
Goaltender: Samuel Harvey
Forwards: Mathieu Nadeau, Simon Lafrance and Maxim Mizyurin
Defencemen: David Noël and David Henley
Goaltender: Etienne Montpetit