Each team’s support staff may work in the shadows and in the background for their clubs, but they certainly have important roles to play. Look no further than athletic therapists for a shining example of that. We hope the following article will help put the spotlight on our 19 athletic therapists across the QMJHL and provide some background on their day-to-day reality.
First off, all QMJHL therapists are certified and many of them hold bachelor’s degrees in Athletic Therapy and others hold degrees in Physiotherapy.
They must also undergo annual training to ensure they remain on the cutting edge of the industry while also meeting the standards both the QMJHL and their profession requires. At the League level, they must renew their first respondent courses every two years during the League Meetings.
As for their certification, they must annually complete a certain number of credits in continuing education. These credits can be obtained via certain training programs, such as those for managing concussion protocol, massage techniques, etc. They can also gain credits by attending certain conferences.
At the beginning of each season, all therapists produce emergency plans – essentially a protocol to follow in cases of emergency. If an injury occurs during a game or training session, these therapists serve as first respondents. They work as a team with the onsite medical doctor and the opposing team’s therapist in order to provide the best possible care for the injured player.
Their work schedules are very demanding. The season begins in August and can span until May in some cases. During this intense period, they attend all team practices and games across the province of Quebec and all over the Maritimes.
They provide treatments to players prior to and after games and practices. They also ensure that the players’ physical preparation is optimized leading into games. And, of course, players can sometimes be demanding.
In addition to the aforementioned tasks, certain therapists are also responsible for organizing team meals and overseeing team nutrition, especially on the road. They also have several administrative forms to fill out for the League, for insurance purposes.
The role of therapist carries with it a considerable amount of pressure. Therapists are constantly at the mercy of a minor or serious injury occurring. They must also, in the case of serious injuries, react very quickly and take the best possible decisions in the heat of the moment.
And finally, several also participate in Hockey Canada events (U18 and U17 Worlds, etc.) and take part in certain CHL events.
2019-2020 Team Therapist Profiles:
Philippe Fait, Ph.D., CAT(C) – QMJHL Therapists’ Coordinator
Philippe has been the league’s therapists’ coordinator and a member of the QMJHL medical committee (where he is responsible of the concussion management protocol) for 18 years now.
Philippe has a basic training in sport therapy at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) and has a doctorate in experimental medicine with a specialisation in adaptation/rehabilitation from Laval University (Quebec, Canada). He continued a post-doctorate at the Public health expertise and reference centre of Quebec.
Philippe is currently associate professor at the department of physical activity sciences at l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). He is a regular researcher for the Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition (Montreal, Canada) and for the Groupe de Recherche sur les Affections Neuromusculosquelettiques (Trois-Rivières, Canada). He is also an associate member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (Quebec, Canada).
Besides being the co-author of the Ministerial Report of the Government of Quebec on concussions, Philippe is also the author of several scientific articles and he’s been invited to many conferences with various associations and organizations and at various international congresses. He was also a guest speaker at the prestigious TED organization, speaking about cerebral neuroplasticity during his performance at the TEDxQuébec edition.
Mélanie Landry – Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Mélanie has been the Titan’s therapist for four seasons. She studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University and also has a degree in psychology from Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB).
“I was a fan of the QMJHL growing up and I would always watch the therapists behind the bench. I always found their role very interesting and it helped inspire me in my career choice. What I like most about my line of work is the positive relationships I get to form and the satisfaction that comes with helping passionate athletes return to the ice and reach their goals. I also love the familial spirit that we have in Bathurst and all around the League.”
Mariane Allard – Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Mariane, who studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University, has been the therapist for the Drakkar since 2019.
“I knew I wanted to work for a QMJHL team during my studies in athletic therapy and I reached that goal in 2019. What I like most about my line of work is to help the players when they hurt themselves, until they are 100% back on their feet. To be part of a team and to be at the forefront to observe the development of players from amateur to professional is really stimulating. The experience I gained with the Drakkar will be useful in the future, in my professional life as much as in my personal life.”
Francis Denis – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Francis just concluded his 12th season in the League. Before becoming an important team member for the Armada, he worked for the franchise when it was still called the Montreal Junior. He graduated in 2005 from Concordia University in exercise science – specialization in athletic therapy.
“What has connected me to the QMJHL for all these years is my passion for the game and my desire to be part of a high-level sports team. I get to contribute to the success of the organization in my own way.”
Justin Sonea – Cape Breton Eagles
Last season was Justin’s first with the Eagles. He has a degree in exercise science – specialization in athletic therapy from Concordia University.
“I love working within the QMJHL because it is a privilege to be able, on a daily basis, to work in a team environment and to help student-athletes maximize their individual potential as elite athletes.”
Kevin Elliott – Charlottetown Islanders
Kevin has a degree in biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and he also studied in exercise science at Concordia University. He just completed his seventh season with the Charlottetown Islanders. Previously he was with the PEI Rocket for eight years and he did a stop in the NHL. He had the honour to represent our country on numerous occasions with Hockey Canada.
“This league has given me more than I could ever imagine from a personal and professional perspective. The best part of the League for me is the family orientation from all people involved from the top down and that does not go unnoticed by anyone. The medical and equipment support staffs have shown over the years why being a part of this group of fine men and women is worth every minute. We have all been friends and family since the day we met. The players in our league are the reason we work here. The game and our job have changed in many ways since my first year. However, the players are all the same 16-20-year-olds and nothing is more impressive than watching them grow as young men at 16 to adults when they leave. The history and friendships last forever. It will always be awesome seeing a former player now as a father, parent, and sometimes even coaching his children. “
Marilyne Gendron – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
The 2019-2020 season was Marilyne’s first in the QMJHL. She has an impressive education: a technique in physiotherapy from the Cégep of Chicoutimi (graduated in 2012), a certificate in kinesiology from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (graduated in 2015) and a bachelor as well as a master in physiotherapy from the Université de Sherbrooke (graduated in 2019).
« Playing team sports and working in the field of health have always been my passions. It was thus logical for me to become a physiotherapist. I have been lucky to get the opportunity to work in the QMJHL in an organization where everyone, from the health professionals to the trainers and the players, have the same interest in sports. The focus is on the sense of belonging to this huge family and that is the beauty of my work. To help the players keep going and play hockey despite their injuries is very rewarding and challenging. Given the fact that my knowledge in hockey was initially limited (I asked many questions behind the bench!), it was a challenge at the professional and sportive levels, and I loved it.”
Andrew Oddy – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Andrew, who studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University, just completed his fourth season with the Voltigeurs.
“Hockey has been my passion from a very young age. Coming to the rink everyday and doing what I love does not feel like work. The friendships and experiences I have gained by working in the QMJHL are second to none. Being able to work with these great hockey players and watch them grow, on and off the ice, is truly amazing.”
Noémie Chartier-Lefrançois – Gatineau Olympiques
This will be Noémie’s second season with the Olympiques after doing an internship with the Shawinigan Cataractes for one season. She has an impressive education: a bachelor in kinesiology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, a specialized graduate diploma (DESS) in athletic therapy from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a post-graduate course in osteopathy at the Centre Ostéopathique du Québec.
“I feel privileged to live from my passion. For me, being part of a hockey team is like being part of a family. I am proud to help with the development of these young athletes in order for them to perform as best as they can and to reach the next level for some. I am surrounded by passionate people that would do anything for the love of this sport and that motivates me to surpass myself every day.”
Robin Hunter – Halifax Mooseheads
After entering the League with the Cape Breton Eagles where she worked for two seasons, Robin turned to the Halifax Mooseheads to continue her therapist journey in the League. She just completed her fourth season with the Mooseheads. Robin studied in exercise science – specialization in athletic therapy at Concordia University.
“I’ve always liked the atmosphere around team sports and now I have the chance to integrate that into my job. The competition, the teamwork and the relations I get to develop with colleagues and athletes are all elements that I adore. It is really gratifying to have the opportunity to educate young players and help them perform as best as they can.”
Graham Black – Moncton Wildcats
Graham completed his 21st season in the League. He started his career with the Victoriaville Tigres and has now worked with the Wildcats for 14 years. He studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University.
“What I like most about my job is how it truly is a team effort. The challenge of the competition and the chance to make a difference in the lives of these young men, as hockey players and as people, is very rewarding.”
Steve Bélanger – Quebec Remparts
Steve, who studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University, is one of our most senior therapists with 23 seasons of experience in the League. As we say, he is almost part of the furniture. He currently works in Quebec City, following stops with the Sherbrooke Faucons and the Shawinigan Cataractes.
“I like this line of work because it is never routine. There are always surprises from week to week. I also really enjoy working with these youngsters, even though a lot has changed since I started my career!”
Mathieu Foster – Rimouski Oceanic
Mathieu has been the therapist for the Oceanic for the past two seasons. He studied in physiotherapy and kinesiology at the Université de Laval.
“Hockey has been my passion for as far as I can remember. That is why most of the decisions I made during my studies in physiotherapy and kinesiology were aimed to get a job related to my passion. Whether with the Oceanic during winter, or with the on-ice training organization for which I am a co-shareholder, giving back to this sport brings me pure pleasure and a lot of pride.”
Lucie Grandmont – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Lucie, who studied in athletic therapy at Concordia University, recently completed her fifth season with the Huskies.
“What I love about working for a junior hockey team is that every day is different and brings a new set of challenges. I also love to have the opportunity to help young men aged between 16 and 20 to grow as hockey players, but also as people. And I also love to do that in a family spirit, in the Rouyn-Noranda organization as well as with my colleagues all over the League.”
Kyle Sutton – Shawinigan Cataractes
Kyle will be starting sixth season with Shawinigan in 2020-2021. He studied in exercise science with specialization in athletic therapy at Concordia University and is currently completing his master in physical activity sciences at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR).
He had the honour and privilege of representing Canada at the most recent IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic where the team won gold.
“We are a close-knit medical community in the QMJHL. You can always count on your colleagues wherever you go for assistance. Working in this league has allowed me to form friendships with outstanding professionals (be that the athletes, coaches, equipment personnel, or fellow medical staff) who are constantly teaching me so much and helping me grow as a person and a therapist. It’s an environment built on excellence that motivates you to bring your best every day.”
Nicholas Borrelli – Sherbrooke Phoenix
Graduated from the Athletic Therapy program at Concordia University, Nicholas spent his third season in the League this past winter.
“I love getting to work with athletes who are driven to succeed and get better. It drives all of us in the support staff to be better for them day in and day out. We all spend so much time together that we become a second family. It is also a great pleasure to work with such great therapists in the League as we are always there to support each other.”
Jeff Kelly – Saint John Sea Dogs
Jeff, who studied in kinesiology at Acadia University, is one of his organization’s pillars after completing his 13th QMJHL season with the Sea Dogs.
“I love having the opportunity to help young athletes reach their goals. I also enjoy the learning process that comes from each new experience. Whether it’s a championship season or a difficult one or the team misses the playoffs, they are enriching experiences that transmit from one generation of players to the next. The chance to help others while passing on what I’ve learned is what has motivated me to work in the QMJHL for all these years.”
Donovan Delarosbil – Val d’Or Foreurs
Donovan just completed his ninth season with the Foreurs and he contributes greatly to the team’s success. He has a bachelor in science – athletic therapy from Concordia University.
“The QMJHL is a passionate league in constant evolution in efforts to better develop future NHL players. Our players benefit from unparalleled support and guidance.”
Raphaël Boudreau – Victoriaville Tigres
Raphaël played hockey for the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes for five years while attending the school. He has a specialized graduate diploma (DESS) in athletic therapy from the UQTR. When he graduated, he decided to stop playing hockey in order to focus on his career as a sport therapist.
“Being myself a retired player, I always wanted to study and work in the health department, mainly to help athletes. Given my passion for hockey, it was natural for me to work in this area. This sport taught me so much and still does, which makes me want to give back to the next generation of hockey players.”