Hockey has been a major part of my life. Coming from a Haitian family that did not know much about the sport from the get go, we grew very fond of it by watching the Montreal Canadiens on TV. That is when my brother and I, by playing in the house using any tools we could find, gave our parents no choice but to embark us in organised hockey when I was 5 and my younger brother 3.
Through the years, I made myself known amongst hockey people as a very fast and physical player and I modelled my game by closely watching guys like Wayne Simmonds. Little that I knew, this would be the start of a crazy and wonderful journey filled with ups and down leading me to where I am today. Although I played soccer up to a high level, hockey was my first love because of the speed, the intensity, and the incredibly valuable life lessons that are unique to the sport. I realized this at the age of 12 when my career took the first of many unexpected turn, making the Laval Patriotes Pee Wee AA team. This came as a surprise as I found myself amongst some of the most talented players on my team and opposing teams I have seen. This amazing season, thanks to my coaches, teammates, and opposition was a sign of better things to come as I then played 2 years Bantam AA and Midget Espoir at 15. This journey had its share of successes and hardships but were memorable years as I learned a great deal from coaches, teammates mentors and my parents. With the goal of hopefully making the Laval-Bourassa Midget AAA team in 2008, my career took a major shift the preceding year while I played Midget Espoir. Being a very good student and focused on school, I came to hear about the possibility of playing for a Prep School in the United States. So I attended a showcase to check it out and surprisingly, it was the major turning point in my life. The showcase went so well that I received multiple invitations to visit schools with hopes to join their program. Of the multiple choices I had, I narrowed my pool to 3 schools, and ultimately chose St. Paul’s School. Why Prep School, or the American route you may ask? It was the best combination between hockey and academics that I could ask for. Although I dreamed of playing pro hockey, my parents and I always agreed that school had to come first and we honestly were realistic of the fact that playing professionally would be a long shot. Therefore we judged that the American route was more suitable for me. Prep School was a unique experience where I made lifelong friendships and relationships with people all over the world and all living on campus along with faculty. St. Paul’s allowed me to live in an extremely diverse community, gave me the chance to assume a leadership role in different situations, and most importantly made me very conscious of community service and being the best human being possible. On the hockey side, I got the chance to face some very tough, competition, with many opponents now playing professionally and really got to improve my game to a level I could not envision.
”Although I did not play at the professional level, I got to play with some of best players around my age, had to chance to attend 2 wonderful schools in St. Paul’s and Lake Forest, realized that I had so much to give to future generations when I hung up my skates, and last but not least, I had the chance to represent Haiti in ball hockey. I attribute all of these opportunities to the game”
Following Prep School, my next was to play NCAA Division III hockey at Lake Forest College in Illinois where I played for two years. It was a university that reminded me a lot of what I lived at St. Paul’s which made my choice easy to go on to pursue my career and a bachelor’s in biology. Those two years were very challenging both on the ice and in the classroom but filled with valuable life-lessons and hockey lessons. Long road trips, intense study of the game, giving back to the community, countless hours spent in the library with teammates, a demanding course load, you can name it all. After having a rough start of the season trying to find my place in the lineup, the event that changed everything was my first concussion suffered in January 2013 as felt that I was getting back on track. A concussion that shook me for the rest of my time at Lake Forest and left me with on and off symptoms for the following 2 years. It was a rough time because the persistent symptoms that I felt came to have a significant impact in the classroom and on how I felt as a person. Frequently seeking medical help near school or when I was home, I was struggling more than usual to complete my work or to study and I was having a hard time to get to the playing level I wanted to be at. However, with the support of teammates, coaches, athletic training staff, professors, family, friends, and loved ones, I managed to hang with it and fight through adversity to hopefully get back to where I wanted to. School got back to where it was, however the challenges on the ice remained as the symptoms were still omnipresent but I told myself that I would not give up. Unfortunately, despite an intense summer training, my second year on the Lake Forest hockey team did not yield the desired results as I was still unable to find my niche on an improved lineup. I still gave it my all while being present for my teammates going to war everyday. With the same uncertainty leading up to my third year, my symptoms present and not improving, and honest discussions with my coach and my parents, I decided not to return to Lake Forest College and to complete my bachelor’s degree at Concordia University. Looking back at the time spend south of the Canadian border, I must admit that it was an experience that I would do over and over again. The successes and hardships of this journey are what make me man I am today. I count myself extremely lucky to have been a part of St. Paul’s School and Lake Forest College as a student-athlete. The experience I gained from the different places I played allows me now to give back to the kids back home, to coach, and to give any kind of advice to the next generation of kids dreaming to play at the next level. So the journey itself has not stopped as I am now part of a team of developers for a minor hockey organization in Montreal and coaching in several teams throughout the year. Let’s not forget that I came out of it with a university diploma.
The next and most recent unexpected turn was discovering ball hockey when I returned to Quebec; thanks to friend who invited me to join his team in a league in Laval. I absolutely fell in love with the sport. I got to try all formats: 3v3, 4v4, 5v5. I must admit that 5v5 is by far my favorite format because of how close it is to ice hockey.
Although ball hockey first seemed similar to ice hockey at the beginning, I quickly realized that both sports are fundamentally different in many aspects. So along which coaching and doing on-ice development, ball hockey added to the list of things that helped fill the “post-retirement” void. February 2014 marked the beginning of an adventure that has been amazing ever since. My brother and I join the National Haitian ball hockey team’s training camp for the ISBHF World Ball Hockey Championship in Zug, Switzerland. We ended up making the team and got the chance to play for former pro hockey and DI NCAA player Robert Haddock and former NHL player Georges Laraque. Never have I thought that I would take part in a competition representing my parent’s native country. The tournament itself was an unreal experience. The magnitude of the event and the attendance level were amazing. After losing our first game to the Italians, we then proceeded to go undefeated and win the B division. It was an amazing feeling, to be able to represent your country and returning home trophy in hand and a gold medal on our neck. We sure made Haitians around the world very proud. We made an amazing impression off the rink by blending and meddling with other teams and the community, sharing our culture with them.
If I have to sum the past 20 years or so, I must admit that it was filled with opportunities and memorable experiences brought by hockey. Although I did not play at the professional level, I got to play with some of best players around my age, had to chance to attend 2 wonderful schools in St. Paul’s and Lake Forest, realized that I had so much to give to future generations when I hung up my skates, and last but not least, I had the chance to represent Haiti in ball hockey. I attribute all of these opportunities to the game. It is amazing to see what can be done when you enjoy your sport and are dedicated to it.