Growing up, Pascal Rhéaume knew he would be choosing one of two career paths.
“If I wasn’t going to be a hockey player, I was going to be a carpenter, building houses,” he recalls. “My dad said it was easier to play hockey than to be a carpenter, so that’s what I worked on.”
And work he did.
Rhéaume spent two seasons in the QMJHL as a player, first with the Trois-Rivières Draveurs and then the Sherbrooke Faucons when the Draveurs relocated there in 1992. He appeared in back to back President Cup Finals and made a name for himself as a hard-working, two-way center.
After being passed over in the NHL Draft, he was invited to New Jersey Devils training camp. He made the most of it, earned a contract and launched what would turn out to be a 17-year professional career.
As his playing days were winding down, Rhéaume already had some valuable coaching experience under his belt. It was under this backdrop that his return to the “Q” was swiftly set into motion.
“I finished my last season in April of 2010 (with the IHL’s Flint Generals) and got a call from the Drummondville Voltigeurs right away,” he explained. “They had lost their assistant coach and wanted to know if I was interested in the job. I had already spent my final season in Flint as a playing Assistant Coach so I was interested in their offer. Some guys want to wait on stuff like that and think about their future. I took the chance right away.”
After stints as an assistant coach with the Voltigeurs and Sherbrooke Phœnix, Rhéaume accepted his first head coaching position with the Val-d’Or Foreurs during last year’s off-season.
The Foreurs are a rebuilding club on the rise. Rhéaume knows there is work to be done, but hopes his previous experiences – both in the QMJHL and the pro ranks – will serve him well in his position.
“I can tell my players what it takes to play pro,” he said. “I’ve been through so many situations and I feel it’s one of my strengths. I can remind them that even if they aren’t big stars or flashy players, you may still be a guy that a pro team needs because that’s really how I made it to the pros myself.”
The message he conveys to his players is familiar to Rhéaume. It’s one that was delivered to him by his coaches as a young player, including one of the winningest coaches in “Q” history.
“I had a coach in midget that had a big impact on how I played,” Rhéaume recalled. “He told us in training camp that he was going to judge how we played without the puck. That’s when I realized that (the staff) was looking for different things from me. Then for my last year and a half in the “Q”, I had Guy Chouinard as a coach. He had a passion to teach us as kids, which is something I have now. I looked at him as a role model. He made me a better player and had a big impact on my career.”
Knowing from early on which path he wished to travel down has been beneficial for Rhéaume. Getting the opportunity to continue his journey through the game, in a league that made such an impact on him so many years ago, has made it all the more rewarding.
And though he may not be building homes today, Pascal Rhéaume is certainly laying a solid foundation for a new career in the game he loves so much.