It’s a new beginning for Louis Robitaille and the Gatineau Olympiques.
Robitaille and the Olympiques are set to embark on a new journey one that could lead them to championship glory and junior hockey supremacy in three short years.
That’s the ultimate dream and end goal.
Nevertheless, the first leg of that journey starts this Friday night at the QMJHL Draft.
The foundation of a championship team will be built on June 5th and 6th 2020.
A Tough Call
After three successful years with the Victoriaville Tigres, Louis Robitaille was confronted with a very difficult decision. Continue to build and move forward with the Tigres or take on a new challenge in Gatineau?
“It was really tough to leave to Victoriaville,” confessed the long time QMJHL coach.
“They were the first organization that gave me the first chance and believed in me as a Head Coach.”
The relationship that Robitaille has with Kevin Cloutier transcends the game. “Kevin was my boss and GM, but he’s a friend, and we are still in touch every single day right now,” Robitaille said.
“It was really difficult to leave.”
“Where the organization is right now and where we were able to take it is something that I’m very proud of.”
“My family was really comfortable there and we had a lot of friends there,” Robitaille said proudly.
“Victoriaville is such a great community, so it was very hard for me to leave.”
Robitaille’s passion for the game is on display every time he comes to the rink. The former ten-year pro and Calder Cup Champion is all heart and soul and has left a lasting impression on every city he’s ever been apart of.
Building a champion takes knowledge, skill, patience and time.
Louis Robitaille is confident that the staff in Gatineau are more than ready to build around an already solid core of young talent.
“The future is really bright in Gatineau,” Robitaille said.
“If you look over the past few years the picks they were able to select, guys like Zach Dean, Manix Landry and P.O. Roy and there’s also a great core of 19 year olds as well, with Bizier and Poirier in nets so we like the make up of the team.”
Is Robitaille and his scouting staff feeling any pressure ahead of what is arguably the organizations most important draft in franchise history.
“With four first round picks in the top thirteen, we are going to be able to add to the youthful group by selecting four really good players this year.”
“I wouldn’t say its pressure, I would say it’s excitement,” stressed the charismatic coach.
“We want to select not only the best hockey players, but we want to select quality individuals that are going to be joining our group.”
Best Player or Organizational Need?
The Gatineau Olympiques have the best of both worlds. With bounty of first round picks, and the chance to land elite level skill and target organizational need all in one fell swoop.
“If I only had one or two picks it would have been tough to say ok, what do we do, or what area or position to select.”
“With four picks we will be able to add depth at every position.” The Olympiques also own the 23rd pick overall as well.
“With five picks in the top twenty three, we are going to be lucky to add depth everywhere.”
One would assume it would have been difficult for Robitaille to assume his new roles with the team especially given all the attention surrounding the draft.
How do you build trust within the scouting staff as a new GM and Head Coach?
That question never crossed Robitaille’s mind due in large part to an old friend and long-time colleague Luc Dagenais. “The scouts have worked all year for the draft weekend,” Robitaille said proudly.
“I trust the group that’s in place. I’m lucky to have a really good relationship with Luc who took over the Head Scouting job at Christmas.”
“Luc was the Head Scout in Drummondville with us for four years while I was there.”
“We have built a strong relationship.”
“Once I took over, it was an easy transition for me,” confessed Robitaille.
“We are going to be ready.”
Character, Skill and the Intangibles
It’s a question that scouts and hockey executives are asked all the time, especially in today’s era of the game.
What characteristics do you target when drafting players?
For Robitaille, it all boils down to culture and philosophy.
“Every organization will have different criteria, as you know, I’m very passionate and an intense guy, but for me passion is nonnegotiable, work ethic will be nonnegotiable, engagement and relentless efforts these are things that we look for as far as a player or players character.”
“That being said for me there’s a different type of hockey player on the ice, so you can’t always ask the same thing from everyone, but we want players to play with passion and every night when people are going to be coming into the building they will be proud of our team.”
“Win or lose, we want to make sure we give our best, and those are the types of players we want to add this weekend.”
“One of the criteria that we will be adding, is good people.”
“We want good people, that outside of hockey that they go to school, that they will be nice to our fans, nice to our billet families, we want a good kid,” stressed Robitaille.
“We believe if we will be able do all of that we can build a very good hockey club.”
The Prospect of a Champion
The Gatineau Olympiques are building toward something very special and the 2020 QMJHL Draft will be forever etched in the legacy of the franchise and their future championship aspirations.
How excited is the organization to have the opportunity with the coaches that have been hired to build a possible President Cup and Memorial Cup team, and are there aspirations to host the Memorial Cup in their new state of the art facility?
“Hosting the Memorial Cup, well I’ll leave that to the owner, because financially it’s a big commitment,” Robitaille said.
“I’m really excited to part of such a historical organization. For me the Gatineau Olypmiques are the Montreal Canadiens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.”
“The future is bright, there’s a lot of work to be done, but we think with the quality of staff we have and the support that will be given to the players in the upcoming years it’s going to be a great time to be an Olympique.”
“With that there’s going to be some pressure.”
“Teams that start like this with a really young group, which that’s the way we want to do it, because I believe in drafting well and promoting guys within the organization, so when it’s time to go you just add one or two pieces.”
“We are really excited, and for me this weekend will be the start of my hockey journey here in Gatineau.”
A new era is about to begin for Louis Robitaille and the Gatineau Olympiques.