Rick Leger and Derek Cormier are making a difference in the lives of young women and men from this region who aspire to the play the game of hockey at a high level.
The off seasonal dynamic training duo have provided elite level sport specific training for young New Brunswickers for the past few summers in Dieppe.
Nevertheless, Leger and Cormier have taken that to an entirely different level.
“I’ve been home now seven years now and I always noticed that are kids didn’t have this, I didn’t have this and you didn’t have it,” admitted Cormier who played professionally in Europe for 18 years.
“We have to give our kids here in the Maritimes the best chance possible to get to the next level,” Cormier said.
Leger and Cormier have eighty five young players attending their training sessions by age group with an elite level group of pro and pro prospects.
“Rick and I have tried to do that for last few years and things are progressing with the city of Dieppe here to have the opportunity to run a gym like this and to have our ice here in Dieppe and have a these kids here is priceless,” confessed Cormier.
“We have roughly eighty five with our six groups. It’s one of those things that we want to grow, but we want to grow in the right way.”
“We are not here to take on as many kids as possible we are trying to keep the numbers down.”
For Cormier and Leger it’s quite simple.
“It’s all about quality over quantity,” Cormier said.
“We are going to do keep the groups down to seventeen to twenty skaters maximum and have great coaching staff and teachers with them that’s what we are going do.”
Cormier’s on ice staff is a who’s who of local hockey scouts and coaches.
How beneficial is it for young kids coming up through the ranks to see the commitment here locally from guys at levels?
“They probably don’t even know that,” Cormier said.
“They know who they are, but here we are watching a first year bantam group of kids and you have guys like JF Damphousse(NHL Central Scouting) Trent Mann (Ottawa Senators) Dan LeBlanc (Minnesota Wild), Josh Hepditch and Ryan Salvis from the Moncton Wildcats, Matthieu Martin and Ardien Lemay,” Cormier said.
“These guys around these kids on a daily basis so they get a first hand view of their character and work ethic and everything about it.”
“It’s part of the process.”
“It’s great to have those guys there that have that experience and that’s what we have been after.”
“Rick has brought in some great young guys, the kids love them and work hard for them and they know their stuff,” Cormier said.
“We want to surround ourselves with the right people and the best people around and I think we have them here in town,” Cormier said of their staff.
Former NHL netminder and current NHL Scout JF Damphousse is blown away by Leger and Cormier’s program and facilities.
Damphousse has seen first hand what the program can do not because he helps out, because his son participates.
“For sure, I wish I had this type of facility to train in back in the days,” stressed Damphousse when asked if it would have made a difference in his generation.
“Not only the junior players and the pro players, but I look at the Bantam and Midget kids that are having the opportunity to learn the right movements and proper technique and grow with all the technology and training with all the players.”
“I think it’s fantastic, I certainly wish I had it back in the day.”
Where does Damphousse see Cormier and Leger’s legacy on the game in this region moving forward?
“If you look in the next five to ten years they will have a big impact,” Damphousse said confidently.
“I think this can become a training centre for the entire province.”
“I’m not involved in the business itself, I just have my son involved in the program.”
“I’m really thankful that these guys are stepping and creating a facility like this and I think the impact down the road will be huge,” the NHL Scout said.
“We will see more and more players prepared for the QMJHL and possibly the pro level.”
“It’s a reality that when you look at junior players and pro players from the Maritimes historically speaking, conditioning wise you were like almost a year behind.”
Damphousse believes Leger and Cormier’s programs will drastically reduce that gap or surpass other provinces with a facility like they have created in the Arthur J. LeBlanc Arena.
“All the trainers and myself we really enjoy being able to be a small part of the development of there hockey careers as well as helping them grow up into good young kids,” confessed Leger.
Leger and Cormier aren’t fond of the spotlight or attention.
They go about their business the right way for all the right reasons.
“We try to instill the values like dedication, accountability and hard work,” Leger said.
“They will need all those values in their young hockey careers, but also in school and life.”
“You need to put time in anything in order to reap the benefits,” Leger said proudly.
It’s not all about the big time, it’s about making a difference each day to get better.
“We know not all kids will make the pros or Junior, but if we can give them the best chance to play to there full potential we are very happy.”
“It is very satisfying being able to do our part,” admitted Leger.
“We have always had great kids from great families and we really appreciate player/parent that puts confidence in us to develop them.”
From the weight room, to the track to yoga, to the ice Leger and Cormier do it all.
How important is it for these young players to understand the proper technique and sport specific exercises?
“Learning how to work out properly, take care of your body before and after workouts is key in order to progress correctly,” stressed Leger.
“Our approach is to take care of all the little injuries, instabilities and mobility issues after the season. Then focus on techniques and the right progressions for each player.”
“The last thing we want to see is an injury during off ice due to improper technique, improper loading or wrong progressions.”
COVID-19 has effected everyone differently. Leger and Cormier tried to keep their athletes in the best shape possible during isolation.
“During the COVID pandemic we weren’t able to see our players in person so we used an app and created an at home program to make sure the players stay active,” explained Leger.
“We created over 150 mini videos explaining all the exercises, mobility, correctives, yoga, warm ups, cool downs, activations.”
“We had to get a bit creative because everyone was at home with limited to no equipment.”
“Our staff did an amazing job and it was really well received by the players,” Leger said proudly.
Rick Leger and Derek Cormier understand the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity.
They understand and promote the value of hard work and dedication which this region is known for.
Nevertheless, Leger and Cormier also know the importance of levelling the playing field which will undoubtedly continue to make a massive difference in the lives of all the athletes from this region.