Earlier today, Concordia Stingers men’s hockey head coach Marc-André Élément led a U SPORTS all-star team against the top prospects of Montreal Canadiens‘s National Hockey League (NHL) club at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.
Élément was contacted a few months ago by the Canadiens to organize the event. He said he then decided to create a U SPORTS all-star team with the Quebec teams of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) to give the Canadiens a good challenge.
“I think it’s a really good thing for the promotion of our league and the three university programs in Quebec,” Élément said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to be seen. The number one priority is to show people that university hockey in Quebec is a good level of hockey, which is something people may not really know.”
Élément announced to his Stingers players their nominations to the U SPORTS all-star team when they came back to Concordia after summer vacation. One of those players, forward Philippe Sanche, said this game will help players gain experience.
“There are players [on the team] who want to play at a professional level after, either in Europe, here, or in other leagues,” Sanche said. “We can also compare with players drafted or invited to professional camps. I think it will [help] us to compare ourselves to them, know what we need to work on or understand what they did to receive an invitation.”
Sanche said even if today’s game isn’t part of the OUA regular season, the best for the players is to play as if it were.
“If you want to go to the next level, you need to be yourself, play how you can play and show what you’re capable of,” Sanche said. “It’s a game like [any] other. You should not put yourself under too much pressure and try to do too much because that’s when you’re going to look bad.”
Defenceman Carl Neill, another of the seven Stingers on the team, said it will be interesting to be in a team with players he normally faces during the season.
“We know a bit of their tendencies and what kind of players they are, but it’s going to be really interesting given [our rivalries],” Neill said. “I’m sure we’ll put all of this aside for the game, but once the season starts, there will be no more love.”
Rivals or not, knowing a bit of each other should be a good thing for today, as the team’s only practice for the game was held yesterday. However, Élément said he and the players will be fine, as it’s not the first time they have had to deal with such situations.
“We’ll get to know each other quickly for the time of a game,” Élément said. “Yet, they’re all players we know, as we play against them [during the season]. I even tried to recruit some of them before they went into other programs. It will be fun.”
Photo by Alec Brideau