You either have it or don’t? Can you teach it? Can you develop it or acquire it over time?
In this day and age it seems like there are always questions surrounding how passionate hockey players really are. Passion can define a player, impact a career, create a leader and ultimately build a champion.
When it comes to Felix Bibeau, no one has ever questioned his heart and passion for the game.
From the Father to the Son
The endless hours of honing his skills playing the game with frozen feet in the street and outdoor rinks of Chateauguay and Mercier, Quebec will never be lost on Felix Bibeau.“I can’t ever remember not playing the game,” Bibeau said.
“I first started skating and playing the game when I was four. My dad taught me the game.”
“He never played high level hockey, but he was always passionate about the game.”
Like father like son, Felix’s passion for the game grew deeper and deeper. “My dad has always loved the game, he’s a massive fan. He gave me the passion for the game,” Bibeau said proudly.
“My dad’s a big part of why I’m playing hockey in my life today.”
Steve and Nadia were always there for their son and gave him every opportunity in the game. There’s no question the most important characteristic they instilled in their hockey crazed boy was passion.
Must See TV
Bibeau’s early memories of learning the game maybe blurred, but there’s one childhood routine that he will never forget.“I wasn’t like the other kids, I didn’t watch cartoons,” Bibeau said jokingly.
Every day at 6 am as far back as he can remember Bibeau would be glued to his couch in a trance watching hockey highlights on RDS from the night before.
Call it what you want, Bibeau just couldn’t get enough of the game, he was hooked. Every waking hour he thought about the game. “My entire family is passionate about the game,” admitted Bibeau.
To this day Bibeau’s father watches the sport religiously and obviously follows the QMJHL very closely. “He watches every game around the league, even when I’m not playing,” Bibeau said.
“If Halifax was playing against Moncton, my dad would be watching, any good game, he would watch it.”
From RDS to the ice, rest assured Felix Bibeau continually emulated the games best experimenting every move and shot. Bibeau was a quick study, it would take no time at all until the youngster could perfect the moves he observed on television that morning.
Larger than Life
Felix Bibeau’s passion for the game is larger than life. You could say the same about his personality and self-confidence.
Knowing the game meant so much to their young son, Steve and Nadia would take him to nearby Chateauguay to watch the local Midget AAA team play. “I went every Friday night to watch those games,” Bibeau said proudly.
The trip to Chateauguay turned into a family tradition in more ways than one. By that time Bibeau was starting to excel at the game. “When I was younger I knew I was a good player because I was playing at the highest level all the time.”
For eight years Bibeau had watched the regions best play for the Chateauguay Grenadiers. He saw player’s come and go, always aspiring to play at that level. Those players were his heroes, his idols.
The family tradition took on an entirely different meaning when Felix was ready to make the jump to Midget AAA. “When I made the team I started realizing the dream,” confessed Bibeau.
Bibeau had a solid rookie campaign with the Grenadiers posting 18 points in 42 regular season games. The playoffs would become a different story. In 16 playoff games the skilled gritty center had 5 goals and 7 assists.
It was Felix Bibeau’s time to shine. It was only at this point that Bibeau started to realize that he could go places in the game. “My rookie year with the Grenadiers was really the first time I realized that hockey could be my path,” confessed Bibeau.
A trip to the TELUS Cup playing along side long-time friends and teammates Max Comtois and Antoine Morand solidified Bibeau’s already high draft stock. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies selected Bibeau in the 2nd round 27th overall. The rest is history
More Than Just Teammates
Antoine Morand and Felix Bibeau will be forever connected by the game of hockey. Bibeau and Morand were neighbours growing up and grew incredibly close over the years of not only playing minor hockey together, but also going to school. “Antoine has been my best friend since I was five years old,” Bibeau said.
“We were in the same kindergarten class as Antoine.” Best friends on and off the ice, the dynamic duo would push each other in every aspect of the game.
“We were both winners and always had good teams when we were young,” explained Bibeau.
From Pee Wee to Bantam and then on to Midget Bibeau, Morand and Max Comtois had amazing chemistry. The trio tore up the Pee Wee and Bantam ranks. “It was a pretty amazing line and we had a lot of success.”
The Grenadiers coaching staff decided to move Bibeau off the line with Morand and Comtois, probably in effort to balance out their offensive attack.
“Max and Antoine are really nice guys. I was really fortunate to play with them,” explained Bibeau.
Through all the head to head battles in the QMJHL the trio have remained close. Comtois and Bibeau often train together during the off-season.
“Max had a great run, whether it was the NHL, AHL and the Q.”
“I’m seeing all the sacrifices Max is making as well as Antoine. I’m not surprised seeing the success they are having, because they put all the effort, they are serious guys and very passionate.”
Bibeau has always been intrinsically motivated, but seeing the success his friends have had is extra special. “Most of all they are winners and they compete hard, that’s why they have success. “I’m really proud for them and the success they are having.”
Draft and Develop: The Husky Way
Bibeau’s transition into the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies took some extra time, but when he finally arrived he was ready contribute.
Bibeau’s had a solid rookie campaign playing 55 regular season games chipping in with 13 points. Like many other Husky forwards before him, Bibeau would learn how to play the “Husky Way”, or a full 200ft game.
Bibeau saw action in 13 post-season games as a rookie as well. His first Q experience was truly invaluable.
By his sophomore season Bibeau was an impact player on and off the ice. He amassed 62 points in 61 games and eclipsed the twenty-goal mark for the first time in his career.
A star was in the making.
The Huskies would suffer a first round exit that year in the President Cup playoffs, but something special was brewing in Rouyn-Norand. “I think it starts from the top,” Bibeau said when asked what makes the Huskies organization so special.
“The owners are awesome.”
Bibeau feels the perception surrounding Rouyn being a small market is blown out of proportion and couldn’t be farther from the truth. “We have everything we need, we stay in great hotels, we get treated like pros, it makes a huge difference at the end of year, it really all starts with that,” stressed Bibeau.
Top to bottom the Huskies organization are first class. “The entire coaching staff is amazing,” Bibeau added.
Bibeau was eager to share something Mario Pouliot told him earlier this week. “Mario told me when he first came in at the beginning of the year, he was like wow, our biggest asset were the guys in the room.”
“If you win in the room, you are going to win on the ice,” stressed Bibeau.
“We have a great group of guys we grew up together. Most of the guys were drafted four years ago, we grew up and arrived at sixteen and seventeen.”
Twenty of twenty-three roster players on the Huskies were drafted and developed, home-grown, which is truly incredible in junior hockey today. It’s all about family and growing a winning culture in Rouyn-Noranda.
“We grew up together, our chemistry was amazing.”
“It’s rare to see a group of guys like that. I’m not saying it won’t happen again, but I’ll be really surprised to ever see another group like that,” confessed Bibeau.
“It was just a perfect year. I think we had 79 wins, there’s teams in the Q that it will take them like three to four seasons to get that many wins, so that’s pretty crazy.”
A Coaches Impact
Every player needs a coach that will trust them, inspire and motivate, take them to a different level, but more importantly believe in them.
In Felix Bibeau’s case that coach was Gilles Bouchard.
“When I came in at seventeen, I wasn’t playing a lot, but Gilles believed in me. He could have traded me or Tyler Hinam and Raphael Harvey-Pinard.”
“At Christmas he made some trades, but he didn’t want to trade us and he stayed with a young team. Gilles could have sacrificed some young players to win two years ago,” explained Bibeau.
“I think he did the right thing.”
“Gilles had really big impact on my career, you know at eighteen when I came in for my second year he gave me a lot responsibilities, with PK and Power Play time and a spot on the second line.”
“Gilles’ a great coach, he gave me my first chance to play in the league and I’m really happy to see him doing well in the AHL.”
“Gilles and Mario both have been really great to me,” Bibeau said.
We Did it for Papi
Felix Bibeau has watched hockey literally his entire life. The Memorial Cup was no different.
“I remember watching the Memorial Cup since I was ten years old. When you are in the moment you are so focused on the task, you don’t think about that,” Bibeau said of playing on that stage. It’s taken two or three days for everything to sink in. “It’s crazy, we won, it’s like a dream come true.”
“We weren’t expecting it,” confessed Bibeau.
“At the beginning of the year we knew we had a good team, but we didn’t know we were going to win the President Cup and Memorial Cup, it’s just a really great feeling, all the sacrifices and effort we put in all year, it’s all worth it, we are the champs.”
When Bibeau hoisted the Memorial Cup he thought of one person. “This summer my grandfather died, he was my biggest fan,” Bibeau said.
Bibeau’s grandfather suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“Last year he had a chance to come to Rouyn and watch me play. He was from Drummondville, so every time I was playing there in his wheelchair in the corner, watching me play.”
A moment shared between mother and son that Nadia Rene will never forget. “When we won, I went to see my mom, she was crying and I just said we did it for Papi.”
“We did it for Papi. It was a great moment for our family, I know he’s looking from above and he’s really proud of me.”
Not Done Yet
Felix Bibeau’s passion for the game of hockey is truly one of kind. The twenty-year-old high scoring center is going to take a few days off to let everything sink in, but is still focused on taking his game to the next level.
“I going to try to get an invite to a pro camp and see how it goes from there, but I’ll let me agent handle that,” Bibeau said when asked about his future aspirations in the game.
“I’m going to take a week off and not think about hockey, and then next I’ll start getting ready for next season.”
“I’m really happy with my season and the playoffs, but I’m not done yet.”
“I’ll work hard to be at the top of my game next year to,” stressed Bibeau.
With his confidence at an all time high Bibeau is excited at the prospects that the future may hold.
Huskies Head Scout Daniel LeBlanc believes Bibeau’s play at the Memorial Cup and all season can be contributed confidence, compete level and swagger, something that the Huskies scouting staff identified early on in his career.
“Lawrence Benjamin, my Assistant Head Scout watched Felix back when he was playing in Midget that was his territory, he had a gut feeling about him, Felix was his guy,” LeBlanc said.
“Felix had smooth hands an amazing shot and is a character kid. Felix was always very confident in his abilities, he has character, he hates to lose, he usually shows up in big games,” explained LeBlanc.
“Felix really never let us down when we needed him to step up and play.”
“Last week at the Memorial Cup I didn’t expect any less of Felix, he was a very big part of that championship and the entire year,” stressed LeBlanc.
“He was that confident body out there that hates to lose and is going to compete, sometimes he flirts with that line with penalties, but when you can keep him on that edge, he draws a lot of penalties instead of taking them.”
“It’s dangerous when you have a guy like that on an edge, because he’s so good,” confessed LeBlanc.
“Having the season that we had as a team and me personally has really helped my confidence,” Bibeau said.
“Right now my confidence is really high, and I really believe in myself.”
“I hope that confidence will stay for a long time and that I will have confidence wherever I go or wherever I play and bring that confidence on the ice.”
Bibeau realizes there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach his goal of playing at the next level. “Definitely I have to improve my skating and my explosiveness, right now the game is so fast at any level especially the NHL level.”
“All the guys are really fast out there, you have to think fast and play fast and move the puck fast.”
“This summer I will work really hard in the gym and on the ice to improve and really focus on the strength and power in my legs, if I do that I have a lot of good assets to play at the higher level,” Bibeau said confidently.
Felix Bibeau’s passion continues to fuel his journey.