Since its debut in 2017, the Laval Rocket, the club affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, is very involved in its community. Work and initiatives concerning various charitable causes are more and more common in the world of sport and the Laval team is no exception. We interviewed the team coach, Joël Bouchard, to find out more about the organization's community involvement.

More Than Just a Hockey Team
The Laval Rocket team has been very active in the community when it comes to charitable events. The team donated more than $15,000 to Leucan as part of its Hockey pour vaincre le cancer fundraiser. They also recently launched the second edition of their school program, which promotes the benefits of reading in elementary schools in the region, while being very involved with minor hockey teams. “It's obvious that as a sports organization, you owe it to yourself to be involved in your region,” coach Bouchard explains. “With our work, we help so many people. We try to diversify the causes we support. This is my duty as a hockey player. In this respect, I think the Rocket does a great job. We really get involved everywhere in the Laval community.”

Causes Near and Dear to Their Hearts
It has always been Bouchard's philosophy to give back to the community and its supporters. His longstanding association with the Ronald McDonald House is a perfect example. These are low-cost, temporary residences where parents from remote areas (more than 55 km) are welcome to stay if they have a sick child in need of care at one of Montreal children's hospitals. This is definitely an organization that is dear to Bouchard's heart.

“I have been involved with the Ronald McDonald House since 2004. It's a cause I know and love. We do not necessarily think about parents that must be housed while their child is being cared for at a hospital, sometimes far from home. This allows them to have a place to stay for weeks, months, sometimes even years. We give a hand to these people who already have to fight with their child's illness,” Bouchard says. “It is a privilege to do what we do. I consider myself really lucky to do what I do in life, and the players do, too. So we have to talk to people, help them financially when we can afford it. If we have a chance to give back, give a little help, we'll do it.”

Bouchard finds it particularly interesting that players may be required to visit schools. “We really see the impact that hockey players can have in the lives of these young people, whether it's for reading or just to inspire them. We are able to help beautiful school environments in the Laval region.” Bouchard also explains that the Rocket players' community involvement allows them to get out of the world of hockey, which is very intense and very demanding. “We all have a lot of expectations for the team and players need to be successful. So getting out of the arena and seeing children in schools, to read with them or give them their time during a fundraiser, makes them appreciate what they have. It also gives them a nice transition from their training schedule to traveling. The guys are able to find time and work together to give back to their community.”

Bouchard, as a coach, receives a lot of positive feedback about the Rocket's community involvement. “People often come to me and say, ‘Hey, your players came to my school!’ I hear a lot about how extraordinary they were or how much their visit was appreciated. It's always fun to hear, especially when feedback is so positive.”

Bouchard has been a part of the hockey world in more ways than one. He was player, then a host for RDS before becoming the owner of the Armada Blainville-Boisbriand. He has been coaching the Rocket de Laval since 2018. Among all these experiences, he explains that his favourite cause really is the Ronald McDonald House. He has participated in various charity events, including Christmas lunches, barbecues and golf tournaments where he says he has met extraordinary people. “I have been privileged to have been able to contribute to this cause since 2004. I also like each of the other causes to which I was able to participate. I attended so many events. I never forget these experiences.”

The Laval Rocket Team in 2020
What can we expect for the Laval Rocket team in 2020? “We can certainly hope to win as many games as possible, to be in the playoffs. But first and foremost, our players must continue to be healthy. I also wish, as a coach, to continue to advance my players,” Bouchard explains. Bouchard says he also hopes his team will continue to help people, both during the games thanks to the players' performance, during the tournament and at local charity events. “As a hockey team, it's always good to be able to meet the people who support us. Certainly, the Laval Rocket team is not done; both on the ice and in the various causes that affect the Laval community.”