From uOttawa to the Habs
By Charles Rousseau
Members of the media, Habs fans and hockey lovers around the world are truly passionate about the Montreal Canadiens.
“Hab fans are very attached to their team. It’s the most prestigious team in the league and the most successful one in the history of hockey,” says Donald Beauchamp, vice-president of communications with the Montreal Canadiens since 2002, and now in his 22nd year with the organization.
On February 24, 2015, he spoke to students and alumni as part of the Department of Communication’s Alumni Series. He talked about the basic values he embraces and that have served him well throughout his career—tact, humility, credibility and honesty.
Beauchamp played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the Trois Rivières Draveurs in the 1979-80 season.
“I was last pick during the draft, at the very end of the 33rd round. And although many people don’t know it, I still hold two records—the lightest player…I weighed 119 pounds at the time, and the most consecutive games on the bench without playing—25!”
After hockey with the Draveurs, he studied at the University of Ottawa, from 1982 to 1985.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says, adding that he loved the experience of living among people of both French and English cultures and languages.
“I was a student, of course, but I also worked—pretty much full time—as an information officer at Sports Services....Studying at the University of Ottawa led to some outstanding opportunities for me. It’s a bilingual university located at the heart of Canada, in the nation’s capital. I did my studies in French, but I had exposure to the program in both languages and to all the variety the City of Ottawa has to offer. This really gave me an advantage for landing a great first job. What stands out most for me is the prestige that the University of Ottawa, the Department of Communication and the City of Ottawa enjoy. And exposure to another language and another culture will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
After he completed his studies at the University of Ottawa, Beauchamp worked in Calgary as the director of public relations and marketing for Hockey Canada. This allowed him to play a key role at the Calgary (1988), Albertville (1992) and Lillehammer (1994) Olympic Games and at four World Hockey Championships—Switzerland (1990), Finland (1991), Czechoslovakia (1992) and Germany (1993).
In 1993, Beauchamp joined the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, he’s witnessed a great deal of change in the field of communications. He believes that you can’t control the news agenda — you can only manage it. Information travels lightning fast, and you have to constantly be on top of what’s happening. His challenge is to manage the enormous interest in the Canadiens and the wide media coverage the team receives.
“Coverage of the Canadiens is almost cult-like. It’s a way of life. It’s so extensive and widespread that most Quebecers have a real sense of ownership when it comes to the club.”
For Beauchamp, relationships are what count and everyone working with the Canadiens is at the peak of his or her career. They all interact together — the athlete who wants to play a good game and win, the coaches who manage well and win and the journalists who want the best possible access to the players and coaches. And the NHL has policies dictating access by members of the press. So Beauchamp’s role is somewhat like that of a conductor, making sure that everyone works well together, so that everybody benefits.
“In order to have an impact on a player or a manager, there has to be trust. The communications office isn’t there to say what to do all the time, but rather to provide guidance and put things into perspective.”
Beauchamp is a strong believer that a career like his begins with a passion, and requires a strong work ethic.
“I tell young people they should consider coming to the University of Ottawa because of the wide diversity of people and programs and its bilingual nature. These things really help a person develop a wide range of skills and qualities that they can then take into the workforce with them.”
Donald Beauchamp spoke to students and alumni as part of the Department of Communication’s Alumni Series. Photo: Alexandre Chaput