Sylvain Couturier: Ex-NHL Player Who Wears Many Hats In The Sport
Sylvain Couturier was born in Greenfield Park, Quebec. It was hockey in the Winter, baseball in the Summer. Typical kid from Quebec except that the hockey player he followed was not Larry Robinson, nor Guy Lafleur, but rather Willi Plett, the Paraguayan born NHL Pugilist with over 2500 penalty minutes.
Ex NHL PLayer, General Manager, Coach, and Dad of a present NHL Player
Before going on to an illustrious Junior career in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) some highlights from Midget AAA time was representing Team Quebec vs Russia. Any time you play against the Soviets, you are in for a battle.
Sylvain was chosen in the first round by the Laval Titan, and went on to play with great players like Vincent Damphousse, Michel Mongeau who in 2010 passed away from skin cancer, Steven Finn, Donald Audette, Claude Lapointe, and of course his old roommate Rob Murphy
I was drafted after my first year in Junior Hockey. It was a great day, but on the other hand a sad day as my father had passed away earlier in the year, and never saw me drafted. I was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings #65 overall in the fourth round.
My level of play increased immensely and in my second season recorded 90 points. In my third and final season at Laval, I recorded 137 points, scoring 70 goals. Like I told you, I played with some incredible players.
I vowed to always honor my father, carving a cross into the ice before the start of each game. I proudly continued this tradition throughout my professional career.
In terms of a funny moment in my career, one comes to mind right off the bat. During my last year playing professional hockey in Germany, one Friday night our starting goalie had dislocated his shoulder, and we didn’t have time to call somebody up from our affiliate team, so we went into the game the next night with only our backup.
In the first period of the game that night, the backup goes down injured, and the referee says that we’ll have to forfeit if we don’t put in another goalie, so I went to the locker room, put on the stuff, and finished the game playing goalie.
The first NHL game was against the Montreal Canadiens in Los Angeles. Playing professional hockey, and against my hometown team was a dream come true. My nerves were completely shot entering the ice at game time.
Another great memory was on Sept. 27, 1991 in the parking lot of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, I scored in the game helping the Kings beat the New York Rangers 5-2. In 80 degree heat, 13,000 fans packed in the stands wearing shorts and t-shirts to watch the preseason matchup.
I remember Luc Robitaille pointing out that there were these big giant grasshoppers jumping on the ice and they would freeze right there, so by the end of the second period they were everywhere on the ice and it was kind of funny.
I was also fortunate to play in Europe and can say the atmosphere was exceptional with fans standing almost the whole game singing and drinking. I played over there with many ex-NHL players such as Chris Kontos and Bob Sweeney. I definitely enjoyed all of my time in Europe.
In terms of differences between when I played, anow, first off I would have to say the media. Nowadays when something happens in sports, the whole world knows about it in seconds from all of the available outlets we have, and maybe that means that this generation of player has more pressure on them.
In addition, the way the players are prepared for competition is totally different based on all of the availabilities. We used to plan out strategies on the boards and then go out and do it. Now with all the video elements and constant analysis, it’s a whole new world from when I played.
ES: After finishing your career, I see that you have now gone into management as the GM of Acadie-Bathurst Titan. In fact, you have a son, Sean, who played in the same league against you, and was projected to be amongst the top picks in the NHL Draft in Minnesota.
I am absolutely proud of both of those facts. I have rejoined the Titan (My junior club when they were in Laval), and yes my son Sean has had some great memories these past couple of years both representing his country of Canada, and participating in the Memorial Cup, Junior hockey’s elite tournament championship. We all looked forward to the NHL Draft, and then the Philadelphia Flyers chose Sean with the #8 pick in the first round. We are very proud and excited for all the new experiences that Sean will encounter as a professional hockey player.
In closing I would just like to say that I truly believe the best advice I could give is for the youth athletes to just enjoy themselves when playing the game. In the mid teens, if it looks like you can go to that next level, then that’s another thing in terms of dedication, and commitment, but as a youngster, just get out there and participate.
I am grateful for my wonderful family and friends, and especially to my wife for all of her support in this crazy professional sports life, and that she blessed me with 2 wonderful children. Growing up in a family full of brothers and sisters, and the closeness in our relationship, is something I really cherish