Historical Moment: Titan land Luongo, Benoit, Abid, and Bouchard is blockbuster trades
It’s no secret that the 1999 Acadie-Bathurst Titan squad is a hockey Cinderella story if there ever was one. You have a team that moved from the big city lights of Laval, Quebec to the starry northern shores of Bathurst, New Brunswick. With this move solidifies the Acadie-Bathurst Titan as the smallest market team in the Canadian Hockey League. However, it doesn’t mean the community along the Bay of Chaleur boasts a small fan base. Au contraire, our friends.
The K.C. Irving Regional Centre has some of the best, coolest, most die-hard fans you’ll find across the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just look at the lines of people waiting to get tickets during the 1998-99 season (remember those tents set-up outside? We sure do!) or the packed, roaring home crowds during the 2018 cup run.
Wait, wait, wait…we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s dial it back to the Christmas Trade Period during that season. At this point, we have a pretty solid team, but then former owner and general manager Léo-Guy Morrissette pulled the trade trigger on two massive blockbuster deals which brought four superstar players to the Titan. In one move he brought in Roberto Luongo from Val-d’Or, who became a brick wall between the pipes for Acadie-Bathurst in their quest for President Cup victory. Then, in another trade to catapult the team into a powerhouse for the second half of the season, he brought in forwards Mathieu Benoit, Ramzi Abid and Marc Bouchard from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
Luongo is beloved not only in Titan territory, but across all hockey platforms. Whether it is his cheeky Twitter humour to his unparalleled talent as a goalie, he’s a fan-favourite. The now Hall of Fame goaltender suited-up for 22 games in Bathurst, going 14-7-1 with a 3.31 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in his first season with the Titan. During the 1999 history-making playoff run, Luongo won 16 of 23 games, posting a goals-against-average of 2.74 and a .915 save percentage to backstop the Titan to their first President Cup championship.
Drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 1997, Luongo competed for 20 years in the National Hockey League, and his many awards include but are no way limited to two Olympic gold medals and a pair of gold medals at the world championships for Team Canada, silver at the World Juniors and having been nominated for both the Veznia and Hart Memorial trophies.
We retired his iconic No. 1 Titan jersey at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre on August 19, 2012.
Bouchard was drafted 57th overall in the fifth round of the 1994 draft by Chicoutimi and played every season with them from the 1994-95 season until he was traded to Bathurst. Overall, he capped-off a successful major junior career by tallying 140 goals and 248 assists for 388 points in 409 career games. During the 1999 playoffs the centreman from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., had five goals and 19 assists in 21 games. Bouchard would hit the ice the next season with the Richmond Renegades of the East Coast Hockey League, before going on to spend six seasons competing in the Quebec Senior Central Hockey League.
Joining his teammates from Chicoutimi in Bathurst was left-winger Abid, who the Sagueneens drafted 60th overall in the fifth round of the 1996 draft. The product of Montreal, Que., competed for Chicoutimi for two and a half seasons, prior to the move to the Titan. Once on Acadie-Bathurst’s roster, he would net 14 goals and 22 assists in 24 games during the regular season, before scoring 14 goals and 20 assists in 23 playoff games.
By the end of his major junior career, which he finished with the Halifax Mooseheads, Abid had 184 goals and 286 assists for 470 points in 310 games. In 1998 the Colorado Avalanche drafted him 28th overall in the second round, and he was subsequently drafted once again during the 2000 draft, this time by the Phoenix Coyotes. Abid would go on to play professionally in the American Hockey League, the NHL and in Europe. He won a Spengler Cup with Team Canada during the 2007-08 season, cracked the Continental Cup All-Star Team and was named Erste Bank Eishockey Liga Champion in 2011, before winning the European Trophy championships by 2012.
Benoit was also drafted by Chicoutmi, ninth overall in the first round of the 1995 draft. Two years later he’d be drafted 188th overall in the seventh round of the 1997 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils. Originally from Lachine, Que., the right-winger kicked-off what would become an overall successful major junior career when he made his rookie debut with the Saguenéens in 1995. He would play for Chicoutimi from 1995-96 until he was traded to Bathurst where he played until midway through the 1999-00 season, before going to Moncton with Abid and Bouchard. During his time with Bathurst he scored 23 goals and 33 assists in 32 games for 56 points and would net 20 goals and 21 assists in 23 games during the 1999 playoffs. Overall, Benoit played a career total of 376 games and scoring 255 goals and 243 assists for 498 points.
Coupled with their President Cup victory, Benoit would also take home several personal accolades by the end of the 1999 season. He had the most assists, goals and points of any player throughout the playoffs, was named to the Second All-Star Team and took home the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the playoff’s most valuable player. When he wrapped-up his major junior career, Benoit went on to have a professional career playing in the East Coast Hockey League (with a couple appearances in the American Hockey League) and the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey. In 2007 he won the LNAH championships with the Saint-Jean Chiefs.
Needless to say, having those four players join the roster meant integral pieces of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan championship puzzle quickly fell into place. With them in our arsenal, Acadie-Bathurst Titan went on to secure their first President Cup championship in its history.
I guess you could say, the stars aligned.