Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket Head Coach Joel Bouchard Speaks to Media Following Announcement of Season Cancellation

Joel Bouchard (Photo by Rick Stephens | © Rocket Sports Media) Mandatory Credit Required

by Amy Johnson, Lead Correspondent, AHL Report

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — Just a couple of hours after Dave Andrews and the AHL made the announcement that the Board of Governors had voted on Friday to officially bring the AHL season to a close and not award the Calder Cup this year, Laval Rocket Head Coach Joel Bouchard met with the media via teleconference to talk about the state of the Rocket and where the team goes from here.

Graphic courtesy of the AHL

Bouchard began the meeting by confirming that he and his family were healthy and doing well during the coronavirus pandemic. “My parents are a bit older, over 80 years old, so they’re safe. I bring them groceries every week,” he stated.

He went on to say that, before commenting on Laval’s season coming to an abrupt close, he wanted to put a bigger priority on the global health crisis. “I cannot put my personal agenda, or even the personal agenda of what we’re trying to do, with the world crisis right now. I just can’t do it. My human side, I feel, is what it is, and when I see people suffering around the world, and we all know people that are affected by this virus right now, so I just cannot put aside this situation and be fully disappointed on something that would be so selfish,” said the coach.

However, Bouchard added, bringing the season to such a quick end is surely disappointing. He discussed the competitiveness of the Rocket, particularly in the last 10 games that they played, saying, “I think they realized that everything we did where we got and if we were to get to the playoff, I think we would have been a tough matchup for anybody.”

So how does the coach plan to help his athletes prepare for next season? Bouchard was adamant that every player should be using this time to improve themselves in order to come back ready to compete. “You can still get better right now if you become a better athlete, if you take care of yourself, and maybe work on some ability that you can transfer on the ice with stick handling or agility or something like this,” he said. “Use this time wisely to get an edge on something, or work on something.”

He went on to add, “If I was a young 18-, 19-year old guy right now, there’s no reason why I would not have a six-pack. And that’s my thought to the guys all the time: why can you not be a better athlete coming out of this? It’s beyond me.”

Bouchard told the press that he meets online with his coaching staff every week and is reviewing the season with them in depth. “Where were we good, where can we get better, how can we make this more efficient?,” are all questions he poses to his colleagues behind the bench.

Player development was also a hot topic on this conference call, and Bouchard was very vocal regarding the importance of prospects and their journey through the organization, stating, “We are on the right track with developing our guys…We would all like things to be fast, but when we first started two years ago and where we are now, it’s exciting to see all the guys we have that are knocking on the door of the NHL and the players did a great job to buy in to what we’re doing.”

“It’s not one particular thing as much as all the little things that we’ve done together with the players and partnership with the organization and just to see where we are, and trust me it’s not even near done to what we need to do, but I think that’s what – you know, I can see the big picture now. And that’s the one thing that I’m like, hey you know what, we’re heading the right way,” Bouchard summed up.

With no guidance yet on whether any of the AHL players will be used in NHL games this summer, should the league resume to award the Stanley Cup, as well as no clear indication on when the AHL could feasibly start for the 2020-21 season, there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the teams and players in this league.

Be sure to listen to tomorrow’s episode of the “From The Press Box” podcast here on the AHL Report, when Rick Stephens and I will discuss today’s teleconference in greater detail, along with many other topics related to the American Hockey League and beyond.