From the local rinks in Beauce to the NHL, the captain of the men’s national team, Thomas Chabot, took advantage of an environment favorable to his full development.
It’s safe to say that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to Thomas Chabot.
The player from Sainte-Marie, in Beauce, grew up in a house where winter sports were an integral part of the family lifestyle.
“My father played hockey all his life while my mother did figure skating,” says Chabot. Besides, my brother, who is four years older than me, played hockey too. Like any little brother, I wanted to be like him. That’s how I started. »
It was around the age of four that he put on skates for the first time. At that time, he surely had no idea that this choice was going to have a direct impact on his future career.
“Next to our house, we had a round of ice outside, remembers the 25-year-old player. We only had to walk 15 seconds to get there when we wanted. This is where my love for the sport and for hockey began. »
Among his most beautiful memories related to his youth are his two participations in the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec.
Just a few days ago, Chabot and Mathew Barzal, who are currently competing at the IIHF World Championship in Finland, were still reminiscing about the stories, given that both took part in this tournament.
“These are incredible memories, confirms the captain of the current edition of Team Canada. When we were young, we went to see the Remparts since we lived in Sainte-Marie. To have the chance to skate on the same ice as them was something special. To play in a big arena with lots of people, it was a great experience and these are great memories that we will always remember. It’s probably the best experience you can have at that age. »
From that time on, leadership qualities seemed very present in Chabot. He was already concerned about the well-being of his teammates and his team.
“I have already heard that when he was young, he embarked on the ice when a player was injured to see if he was okay,” says Paul Boutilier, who was an assistant coach for Chabot with the Seas. Saint John Dogs and Belleville Senators.
The time then came for him to move up to the midget AAA (M18 AAA) level, where he was able to play for the Commandeurs de Lévis. The town being about 20 minutes from Sainte-Marie, he could count on his parents to go and see him play frequently.
It was especially when he was drafted by the Sea Dogs in the QMJHL that the transition that led him to leave the family nest for good was really felt.
“Lévis prepared me to leave my family, but I think Saint John was the next step, realizes the first-round pick (18 e in total) in 2015 of the Ottawa Senators. In Sainte-Marie, there were no Anglophones. I arrived in New Brunswick, in the middle of nowhere, where everyone spoke English. It was away from home, but my passion was to play hockey and do that for my entire career. I was ready to make the sacrifices that were going to come along the way to get there. »
It was during these years that he developed a great bond with Boutilier. The former NHL player remembers how instrumental Chabot played with other players.
“He was named the best defenseman in the QMJHL so he was definitely good, but he is one of the rare star players who was appreciated by all his teammates, even the fourth line players or the sixth and seventh defensemen, affirms the one who won the Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders in 1983. He definitely had a positive effect on his teams. »
“It’s when you’re inside that you realize how happy all his teammates are for him,” continues Boutilier. At each level, his priority has been to help his companions so that the team improves. This is what I observed in him constantly. »
This appreciation he had for his teammates was also felt during the weekend of his draft by the Senators in 2015, as evidenced by this anecdote told by the veteran coach.
“The day after his draft, he stayed to support his teammates who had not been chosen the day before, remembers Boutilier. He cared about them as much as himself. »
Playing for a winning roster hasn’t hurt his adjustment to his new environment either. In his last campaign with the Sea Dogs, he won the President’s Cup, awarded to the QMJHL playoff champions, which allowed them to participate in the Memorial Cup.
However, none of this would have happened had Chabot remained with the Senators that season. He also applauds the decision that the organization took at the time.
“I think it’s the best deal that ever happened to me,” says the star defender. There were still rumors that I might play in the NHL. The fact that they turned me around and that I dominated at the junior level and at the World Junior Championship, it was really good in view of the following year when I made the jump to the NHL. I was ready and confident in my abilities when I arrived in this league. »
For his part, Boutilier agrees and notes that he continues to progress even though he has just completed his fourth full season in the NHL.
“I think he has matured a lot over the past two years in terms of his overall game, analyzes the man who has now become his personal trainer. The important thing after that is to reach the next level. He’s ready to get there, it’s just a matter of consistency now. It is this last step to take that can be the most difficult. »
Over the years that led him to the NHL, Chabot admits that he never had pressure from his parents, even though his father and brother had also played hockey.
“I hear a lot of stories of parents putting a lot of pressure on their kid, but my parents were always supportive even if I had a bad game, no matter the situation,” he explains. They just wanted me to have fun and keep getting better. It was decisive and even if it has become my job today to play hockey, I really realize that it is still a sport and that you have to have fun when you come to the arena every day. It’s something that has followed me all my life. »
Having fun at the arena and benefiting from the support of loved ones while having a positive impact on the performance of his teams. This is the secret that explains Thomas Chabot’s success.