While his hockey playing days have long since past, Patrick Grandmaitre has found a way to stay involved in the game.
Grandmaitre, 40, spent five seasons with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres and Quebec Remparts from 1995 to 2000, marking the beginning of a life in hockey that got off to a surprising start after Grandmaitre made the Tigres as a 16-year-old.
“When Victoriaville said, ‘We want to keep you’, I remember being a bit hesitant,” Grandmaitre told Junior Hockey Magazine as part of its CHL Leaders segment. “I made a phone call to my parents and talked to my Mom and Dad. That conversation didn’t last too long, as my Dad said, ‘You’re staying there and that’s the end of it.’ The Tigres were in a rebuild and, as a 16-year-old, I was placed on the first and second line and had lots of responsibility, so it ended up being a tremendous decision.”
It was during his time in the QMJHL when Grandmaitre first crossed paths with current Philadelphia Flyers bench boss Alain Vigneault, who at that time was the head coach of the rival Beauport Harfangs. As it happened, advice from the elder Vigneault helped Grandmaitre carve out his future path when his days in the junior circuit were coming to a close.
“I remember talking with Alain about my situation, about having opportunities to play in the ECHL or choose a good university program,” Grandmaitre detailed. “Alain knew me, my family, and our values, and he obviously knows the pro hockey world.
“He said, ‘I know you’re very well suited to earn a good degree. The options that you have at the moment will be there once you graduate.’ I kind of knew that deep down inside of me, but I think that conversation really put me over the hump in terms of looking out for myself and finding the best university program.”
Grandmaitre attended St. Francis Xavier University, earning a degree in human kinetics and education. That paved the way for him to later become a physical education teacher at a private high school, while on the side he had also returned to his hockey roots in serving as an assistant hockey coach at the nearby University of Ottawa. Today, Grandmaitre is in his fourth season as head of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey program.
“I was handed the keys to rebuild this program from the ground up, so it was a tremendous opportunity for me to really build something with my own hands,” Grandmaitre said. “We had to recruit 25 players our first year. We just finished our third year here, where we finished first place. We’re quite proud of the story that we’ve done so far.”
Listen to Patrick Grandmaitre’s full interview with Junior Hockey Magazine here.