Maxime Boisclair was somewhat of a rock star during his four-year stint in the QMJHL thanks to his infectious personality and offensive talent.
During the early 2000s as a member of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, he lifted fans out of their seats while playing on a line with David Desharnais and Stanislav Lascek, one of the most dominant trios in the league at the time. During the 2005-06 season, he scored 70 goals in 70 games.
Today, Boisclair is a teacher in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and coaches the college hockey team there. In doing so, he’s giving back to the sport that has given him so much while also encouraging young people of colour to take up the game and providing them with the same opportunities that were afforded to him. Boisclair is also a member of the BIPOC Coaches Program, created by the NHL Coaches’ Association, which promotes coaches of different races who are trying to rise up the ranks in their profession.
Born in Haiti, Boisclair arrived in Quebec at three years old after being adopted by a family from Drummondville. His father, who happened to own a restaurant that was affiliated with the Voltigeurs, had season tickets to their games and would bring Maxime. That is what started his son’s lifelong love affair with hockey.
Being raised by a white family meant that Boisclair always felt included rather than an outsider. He was treated as an equal by the people around him and for much of his hockey career, especially during his younger days, he was made to feel the same way.
“In junior, what’s nice is that we play with players of many different races,” Boisclair recalled. “At the end of the day, you realize that we are all the same and we are all there for the same purpose.”
It wasn’t even the colour of Boisclair’s skin that was most often targeted by insults, it was his language and the fact that he spoke French along with a broken English. Today, he recognizes that people are much more conscious of racism and the issues related to not just race, but also gender and sexuality. He believes that racist gestures and words are nothing but a defense mechanism.
“Often, I don’t think people, deep down, are racist,” Boisclair explained. “It’s mostly a defense mechanism. They take the first thing they see that can hurt you and it’s going to be the words that come out without really thinking about it.”
Boisclair is pleased with the progress that is being made by hockey leagues and associations around the world in curtailing incidents of racism and ensuring that the culprits are not only punished severely, but must also apologize publicly.
He implores that fully understanding the weight of these hurtful actions and words is crucial to furthering the education of everyone. Hockey can only do so much to combat racism though.
“I think the education starts at home. If the person is not educated at home, no matter how hard the hockey coach tries to teach them, the message will not get through”, Boisclair said.
On the surface, it may seem like the work that Boisclair is doing in Abitibi is on a smaller scale, but the positive impact of his efforts to diversify hockey in his community is immense.