By Adam Jacobs
A Stanley Cup championship ring draws an awful lot of attention in a room full of 20-year-olds. Stephan Lebeau, is the coach of the Lennoxville Cougars of la Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec.
It was in 1993 in which Lebeau, playing for the famed Montreal Canadiens, reached hockey's pinnacle.
His tenure in the NHL did help him make the transition to coaching, but he doesn’t claim to have all the answers.
"It’s my first year, so for me I am learning with the kids that I have. For sure my experience in the NHL and in Europe as a professional hockey player helped me a lot, and I try to carry that to my hockey players," he said.
Lebeau scored 118 goals and 277 points in 373 games for the Canadiens and Anaheim Mighty Ducks before finishing his pro career in Europe.
Lebeau showed great promise as an unsigned free-agent pick-up for the Canadiens, earning American Hockey League rookie of the year and most outstanding player after scoring 134 points for Sherbrooke in the1988-89 season.
The Cougars’ assistant coach also has some NHL experience; he is Vincent Riendeau, formerly of the Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
Riendeau also played overseas to end a career in which he played 186 NHL games, recording 85 wins.
Cougar captain, Pierre-Luc Gosselin said his team respects their coaches, and not just because they played in the NHL.
"They are really good coaches. Stephan knows what to do; he knows how to handle people and what to say in every situation. He’s so good with us that we’re just following him," said Gosselin.
The fact that Lebeau did play in the NHL and has won a Stanley Cup has not gone unnoticed though.
"Since we know that he won a Stanley Cup, we know we can trust him and he is going to do everything he can to win in the final," Gosselin said.
Goaltender J.F. McKay pointed to the way Lebeau overcame obstacles to become successful.
Listed generously as 5’10" and 172lbs as a player, Lebeau had to work hard to get to the NHL, and he said it’s because of their work ethic they have been successful.
"It was our first year in the league, and we were very pleased with our season. It’s almost a dream season for every one of us and we’re going to try and make it better this weekend," said Lebeau.
Lennoxville is an expansion team, first year in LHJ AAA, but the team has existed for more than 20 years as a college team. The college folded last year, but the hockey team stayed alive, gaining acceptance in the Quebec Junior AAA league.
"There was a lot of doubt in our league if we would be successful. Many thought we wouldn’t win may games. But we played very good together.
"I am very proud of my team for what they accomplish on the ice, but also for off the ice, my players are in school fulltime, they are all great students and great men. For me this is even more important than victory," said Lebeau.
Cougars’ general manager Sylvain Laflamme said the team couldn’t be happier with their dynamic duo.
"They’re a big part of our team, they live in Lennoxville and they mean a lot to this organization."
"I was an assistant coach with Toronto (Maple Leafs) last year," said Riendeau. "But I have no plans to leave Lennoxville."
Lebeau agreed."Right now I am concentrating on this team. I have made a commitment and I am going to stick with it."
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