Balancing two careers and two separate passions is extremely difficult. Quite frankly it’s impossible.
You could say Ritchie Thibeau had almost perfected it before the official announcement was made on Tuesday.
After thirty three years as a Director of Information Technology at JDI, Ritchie Thibeau decided it was time for a change, we’ll sort of.
Thibeau decided to jump into the hockey world on a full time basis.
Is it a leap of faith, a calculated strategic move or just perfect timing?
Either way it’s undeniable Ritchie Thibeau was destine to work full time in the game of hockey.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Thibeau said of leaving his job with JDI.
“I’ve been thinking about it for many many months, knowing someday this opportunity would probably come and that a decision would have to be made.”
“It’s one of those decisions that you weigh all the pros and cons and whether you make the full time commitment,” confessed Thibeau.
As they say, things happen for a reason.
“I just felt the timing was right in my personal career and the situation with the hockey team and the organization everything seem to line up perfectly at this time.”
Thibeau and the Moncton Wildcats were well on their way to contending for a President Cup and potentially a Memorial Cup this season before the horrific COVID-19 pandemic struck ending any hopes of claiming junior hockey supremacy.
The year that could have been for the Moncton Wildcats has now turned into a critical rebuild for the proud organization.
Thibeau has experienced all of junior hockey’s dreaded ups and downs in his time within the game.
Nevertheless, Thibeau is quick to downplay any notion that his decision was a leap of faith.
“I understand the organization, I understand the culture and expectations, so there’s no surprises there,” Thibeau said.
“The organization has the same values I have which makes me feel comfortable.”
“From a hockey perspective it’s an organization that I’ve been working in for a few years and understand the expectations and the commitment to winning.”
“If you are going to take a leadership role in an organization there’s no better organization to do it.”
Thibeau’s journey with the Wildcats ironically started twenty five years ago this June.
Thibeau was part of the first group of volunteers for the newly branded QMJHL team in 1995-1996.
A lot has changed since those early days, but the common denominator through it all has been hard work.
“I’m very fortunate to be in a position to be able to make a decision like this with a quality organization and its just something at this time that I believe that the timing is perfect,” admitted Thibeau.
Where does Thibeau see himself in five years within the game?
Is he content staying at the CHL level or does he want to get back to the NHL?
What personal goals has Thibeau set for himself?
“My personal goal is to win a Memorial Cup in Moncton.”
“That’s my one and only goal,” stressed Thibeau.
“That’s something that I really want to do. We are going to work hard every single day to do that,” Thibeau said proudly.
“My personal goals are all related to that, they aren’t to end up in the NHL,” confessed Thibeau.
“If something happens down the road if there’s a situation then we will evaluate if time comes.”
“My personal and professional goals are all about winning a Memorial Cup in Moncton.”
Did Thibeau ever think that he would be in this position when he first started to get involved with the Wildcats over two decades ago?
“Earlier on for sure not,” Thibeau said smiling.
Volunteering and giving back has always had a special place in Thibeau’s heart.
Thibeau did whatever was asked of him whether it was selling 50/50 or working in the office. Those earlier days involved with the organization showcased his unwavering passion and love for the game.
“In twenty five years just like the team has evolved and I have evolved building a professional career and hockey career,” Thibeau said.
“The road has definitely taken on different turns, from the business side to the hockey side.”
“I was given the opportunity to work in the NHL from a scouting perspective for a number of years,” Thibeau said proudly.
The opportunity to scout for the Calgary Flames was a dream come true for Thibeau, but it also opened interesting avenues within the CHL.
“It gave me the opportunity to come back into the Q in a more of a scouting role and foster that passion.”
“It all started by being a volunteer for the club and when you start off it’s not always glamorous, but if you keep the end in mind it always works out, but I can’t say for sure that twenty five years ago I would be here today.”
The decision to leave his first career behind to pursue his hockey dreams and aspirations was extremely difficult for Thibeau on a personal level.
“Needless to say that was the hardest part of this decision, it’s always about people, no matter where you go what you do, it’s all about people.”
“The people that I have worked with that helped me to be successful and I was able to contribute to their career, I’m really going to miss.”
“There’s people here that hired me thirty three years ago that I came here and worked for them that are still working with me today and there’s people that have come in along the way that have played a significant role in my career.”
“It was a very very tough decision and it’s something that I’m really going to miss,” confessed Thibeau.
Given the circumstances of his new, but yet very familiar role as Director of Hockey Operations, does Thibeau feel any added pressure now the interim title as been removed once and for all?
“No whether I was interim or full time, it’s the same thing for me,” Thibeau said.
“We are working everyday to try to win, there’s no added pressure today than there was two years show when I took the interim.”
“We have gone through two drafts as a group that I have lead, we have gone through trading periods and Euro drafts we have gone through seasons of winning and losing, plus coaching changes.”
“I feel that I have experienced many of the challenges that come across the organization and as a group we have worked through those things.”
“We did the best that we can, and I foresee that moving forward that’s what we are going to keep doing,” explained Thibeau.
“To me there’s no additional pressure now than before, because we expect to win no matter if you’re interim or full time, it’s still the same expectations.”
Thibeau may be stepping away or retiring from his first passion and career, but that doesn’t mean he’s focusing on retiring any time soon from the hockey world.
“Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary.”
“It’s not something I think about,” Thibeau said.
“Retirement to me was always going to be about spending more time in the rinks.”
“I’m fully committed to be successful as a team and a group of people and whatever it takes we are going to do it.”
From working quietly behind the scenes to the forefront of the Moncton Wildcats future, you can rest assured Ritchie Thibeau will strive to be the best.
For Thibeau it’s not about micromanaging, it’s all about empowerment.
“My style throughout my career to date in everything I do is always been team first.”
“I have some very capable people around me, and you can’t be successful without capable people surrounding you.”
“My job as a leader is to make sure that those people develop to the next phase of their careers and to provide them with the opportunities to do that.”
“My job is to work with the coaching staff, you hire them because of their expertise and your ability to work with them.”
“You need to use them, you need to allow them to grow and to express their point of views.”
“At the end of the day, yes, a decision has to be made and we will do those through consensus.”
“I will have to make the final recommendation to whomever and we will do it that way, but my job is to make sure I have all the proper information to make the decisions, otherwise I don’t believe I will be successful if I don’t do that.”
Thibeau is extremely confident in his staff and the hockey club moving forward.
“I have some very very good people around me that I have to use to their potential if I want to be successful.”
“I’m very excited,” Thibeau said of his role with the Cats.
“It’s one of those things that you think about for a long time and you wonder if it will ever happen and for me it’s something that I wanted for a long time and now it’s a matter of transitioning and staying focused,” explained Thibeau.
“There’s a lot of things going on these days with a lot of uncertainty, but our job is to make sure that we cut through that and be as ready as we can for whenever the puck drops with the best possible team with a good plan to ensure the organization is successful in the short term, medium term and long term so we can be successful down the road.”
It’s undeniable the Moncton Wildcats are in very good hands with Ritchie Thibeau at the helm.