How Marc-André Élement has made the Stingers a destination for elite talent
The Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team added another rookie to their lineup to start the second half of their season.
William Gignac, a five-foot-seven forward from Repentigny, joined the team after the new year. He is one of nine other first-years, including defenceman Carl Neill and forwards Massimo Carozza and Alexis Pépin. Gignac spent four years jumping around the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), as well as playing for the Terrebonne Cobras last season in the Quebec Junior Hockey League (QJAAAHL). Stingers head coach Marc-André Élement saw him play last season and described him as “probably the best player in the [QJAAAHL].”
“In the end, [Concordia] was close to home. That was my first criteria,” Gignac said on Jan. 12 following a 4-2 loss at home to the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes. “It was a good opportunity for me to come here for school.”
Gignac currently has two goals and an assist in six games with the Stingers.
Head coach the reason for talented rookies joining Stingers
Since becoming head coach of the men’s team just before the 2015-16 season, Élement has established a new mentality for the team. Head scout Justin Shemie described how Élement has a “relentless work ethic,” and that’s partly why the Stingers have had so much success recruiting players. According to Shemie, the team is always looking for new talent. “We’re never good enough,” he added.
Stingers communications officer Catherine Grace described how Élement has taken this team and molded it in his image.
“[The team] really reflects Marc-André and who he is, in the way of how classy the kids are, how hardworking they are, how much heart they put in,” Grace said. That new image is part of the reason why players like Gignac, Neill, Carozza and Pépin are choosing Concordia.
According to Stingers captain Philippe Hudon, Élement came in with a mentality of believing in the team’s abilities and pushing for a greater goal.
“A lot of the guys believe that when you go play Canadian university hockey, it’s your last four, five years of competitive hockey,” Hudon said. “It’s hard to push every day because now you’re going to university, you’re taking classes, you’re focusing on that, but you also want to be competitive at hockey.”
Hudon credited Élement with changing that mindset. “He’s done a good job at coming in here and giving us a sense of purpose,” the captain said.
Élement really began rebuilding the program prior to his second season in 2016-17, when he brought in 13 new players. The Stingers currently have 16 players who Élement recruited in the past two seasons, meaning half the team still has up to three more years of eligibility. Grace talked about how Élement has taken a professional approach to the way he runs his team.
“He wants everything at the highest level,” Grace said. “He wants his players to perform at the highest level, but he also wants to treat them the absolute best. I think when you’re treated well and you get a lot of respect, as a player, you think ‘this is a program I want to be a part of.’”
In Élement’s first season, in 2015-16, the Stingers went 10-12-6, finishing seventh in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East Division. In 2016-17, the team finished second in the division with a 19-7-2 record. This year, they currently sit in second in the division with a 15-4-3 record.
“It’s a big step from the past few years and where it was headed,” Hudon said. “With Marc-André coming in, he’s done a tremendous job at selling this program, selling the school and selling the direction towards which it’s going. You’ve got these players who dominated in the QMJHL, or any other league, who are now coming here because they see the potential of this program to be great.”
Main photo by Brianna Thicke.