Manitoba Moose forward Patrice Cormier doesn’t hesitate when talking about how his experience playing hockey for Team New Brunswick in the 2007 Canada Winter Games in the Yukon has helped shape his career.
When it comes to the leadership skills the 26-year old uses each day, “it helped for sure,” he says.
26-year old Cormier is captain of the Manitoba Moose. It’s a role where he practices leadership in a variety of ways--both on the ice, as well as setting an example for younger players and being a positive presence in the locker room.
It’s a practice he’s been cultivating for a while now. He was also captain of Team New Brunswick at the 2007 Canada Games.
“I was playing in Rimouski back in the day,” says Cormier, explaining that as a younger player with the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he didn’t have as much ice time as some of the older and more experienced players.
However, he was learning skills that would serve him well, and when he arrived at the Canada Games leading Team New Brunswick as captain, it was his chance to show what he could do.
“I was relied on to help win games,” he says. “We wanted to make everybody proud.”
That opportunity to represent his home province was important to Cormier, who scored seven goals in six games during the tournament.
It was about more than just winning games, though.
“It was important for me to go there and set an example, especially for the younger guys, on and off the ice, not only as a hockey player, but knowing I was representing my province.”
“We went there as a hockey team, but we also went there as Team New Brunswick,” he says. “That was pretty cool.”
“It’s a whole province and it’s a whole contingent. Everybody is wearing the same thing, nobody is different--hockey players, speed skaters, ringette players—it was just a whole New Brunswick group. It was pretty special, and I still look back on it pretty fondly,” he says.
Cormier also appreciated the opportunity the Canada Games provided to connect with dedicated athletes from across the country.
“Meeting players or athletes from other provinces was fun,” he says. “Every province had their own get-up, we were dressed in black and dark purple. Every province and every athlete is so excited and proud of representing their own.”
That didn’t mean there wasn’t rivalry, though—especially against neighbouring Quebec.
“Obviously, you want to beat other provinces, and you want to prove that New Brunswick can still beat those big provinces like Quebec and Ontario,” he says, noting with a smile that New Brunswick did beat Quebec in the tournament.
“We were pretty pumped about that because obviously, there are a lot more hockey players there than little New Brunswick.”
“It was just a good rivalry,” he says. “We’d play teams, and on the ice you want to win, but then we’d hang out with them after we’d play.”
Overall, he says, “it was a great experience.”
The location of the Canada Games that year, in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, also made the experience special.
Yes, Whitehorse in winter was cold, says Cormier. But, he adds, it was also much more than that.
“Whitehorse was a place most of us had never been,” says Cormier. “The opening ceremonies were all special dances and ceremonies from the local culture.”
“All in all, it was a great time.”
“Yes, we wanted to win. Yes, we wanted to make everybody proud. But honestly, it was a lot of fun.”
Cormier joined the then-Atlanta Thrashers as a prospect in 2010. He has played 52 NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets and Atlanta Thrashers. He was named captain of the Manitoba Moose in October 2016, after being alternate captain over the 2015-16 season.