By Johanne Adam
The Gee-Gees have selected a head coach to lead the University of Ottawa men’s hockey program: Patrick Grandmaître. This 36-year-old has earned his stripes as a hockey leader, in both amateur and professional circuits, and is very familiar with the Canadian varsity hockey scene.
Grandmaître will take the reins in late August to ensure that the team is ready to start the 2016-2017 season. This will give him a year to structure the men’s hockey program and recruit the 25 players who will comprise the team. The Gazette sat down with the new head coach recently.
G: Patrick Grandmaître, first a few biographical notes: you are a Franco-Ontarian, where did you grow up?
PG: I was born in Ottawa and lived in Vanier until I was six, when my family moved across the river to Hull, where I grew up.
G: Another man by the name of Grandmaître is particularly well known in Eastern Ontario, namely Bernard Grandmaître, the former Ottawa-East MPP who championed Francophone causes in Ontario. Are you related?
PG: Yes, he’s my grand-father’s cousin.
G: How many years of professional hockey have you played?
PG: I played professional hockey in Germany for four years. Before that, I had played five years of hockey at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia [ed. note: where he earned a degree in kinesiology and teaching]. The coach there told me to try out for a German team, and that’s how I signed my first contract there. Afterwards, I played on a number of different teams in Germany.
G: What position did you play?
PG: Most of the time, I was a centre.
G: Do you speak German?
PG: I took some German classes while I was playing there. I can get by in a simple conversation, at a restaurant for example, or to ask for directions on the road.
G: You left a position as a teacher at Collège Nouvelles-Frontières in Gatineau to join the Gee-Gees.
PG: Yes, I was a physical education teacher at Nouvelles-Frontières for five years. When I returned to Canada in 2009, the school offered me a position as a supply teacher and then as volley-ball program coordinator. While I was at Nouvelles-Frontières, I also started the school’s hockey program, in which students play 15 to 20 games a season against other schools. The program has become very popular with young hockey players in the area.
From 2009 to 2010, I was an assistant with l’Intrépide de Gatineau, a Midget AAA team, while working as a physical education teacher at Ecole Polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau.
G: You have also been the assistant coach of the Gee-Gees women’s hockey team?
PG: Yes, I was an assistant coach during the 2010-2011 season, working with Yanick Evola, who is the current head coach of that team. I had already accepted the assistant coaching position when Nouvelles-Frontières offered me a permanent position, but I insisted on completing the season at uOttawa while taking on my new responsibilities at Nouvelles-Frontières.
G: In 2004, you were a member of the St Francis Xavier University men’s varsity hockey team that won the Canadian university hockey championships. How will you react if the Gee-Gees end up facing your former team?
PG: If that happens, I’ll say “Mission Accomplished”, because I will have brought the team up to a very competitive level.
G: You have been hired after the men’s varsity hockey team was suspended due to inappropriate conduct by some of the team members. Given this situation, how do you see your role in your new job?
PG: I don’t doubt that this has been a very trying time, both for the University and for our student-athletes. That said, I am joining the program to help relaunch it, and I am confident that we will field a competitive team in time for the 2016-2017 season. I believe that whenever you encounter a risky or challenging situation, you also have great opportunities to evolve and surprise people. We need to seize these opportunities and prove that we have something worthwhile here and surpass expectations. I am thrilled to be taking on this challenge and I will spare no effort to re-establish the program, recruit good players and proudly sport the garnet-and-grey.
G: What type of coach are you?
PG: I am a pretty flexible coach. I understand that I have to adapt to each player: some handle criticism better than others.
I like to change up my game plans as the season progresses or to suit the team’s energy level, for example. I’m not afraid of speaking my mind to the players when necessary.
G: In closing, what is your primary goal as the new head coach?
PG: As a teacher, coach and former professional player, I believe in university sports and in the development of student-athletes. From a purely hockey standpoint, I want to build a solid program and make sure the team delivers on the ice. But there’s more. I want to recruit a team of athletes with a high graduation rate. To do so, I want to create an atmosphere where each student-athlete who wears the University’s garnet and grey is proud to be a Gee-Gee and is a good representative of our sports program and our university. I want our players to not only be good athletes, but also good students and good citizens.