Men's Hockey: UQTR coach goes off on UNB hockey, and the fun begins!

The season has barely begun in CIS men’s hockey, and already we have one coach going off on an opposing coach through the media. And is not about anything that happened on the ice, and they don’t even play in the same conference. If you guessed UNB Hockey might be involved, well then you have a pretty good sense of one of the main sources (targets?) for drama in the CIS.

The subject of the tension is Francis Beauvillier, a sixth round draft of Florida in 2012, who played for four different teams in the QMJHL. After he didn’t get an AHL contract this autumn, the speedy forward from Sorel-Tracey, Quebec decided rather than play down a level in the minors in the ECHL it might better to attend university. We know this because he announced it on Twitter, and he also stated he was going to be a Varsity Red (even before UNB announced his recruitment). He arrived in Fredericton last week and was in the V-Reds line-up on the weekend in their home games versus Dalhousie and StFX. Beuvillier picked up two points in the two games, including his first goal, and doesn’t look at all out of place in the UNB attacking style of play.

Marc-Étienne Hubert, head coach of the UQTR Patriotes, reacted very angrily and very publicly to the news that UNB had landed a prized student-athlete that he thought he had successfully recruited. In the local Trois-Rivières paper Le Nouvelliste Hubert accused UNB of “contourner les règles” (bending the rules) and he said UNB “offre des cadeaux, possiblement de l'argent” (offered gifts, possibly money) to convince Beauvillier to spur Trois-Rivières for Fredericton.

Hubert offers some details. “On a des informations privilégiées, des preuves. Lors de certaines discussions avec les joueurs, le message a changé et on comprend que UNB a contourné les règles. Ce n'est pas les mêmes règles pour tout le monde et c'est frustrant. On s'aperçoit que c'est David contre Goliath.” (“We have inside information, evidence. In some discussions with players, the message has changed and it is understood that UNB bends the rules. It is not the same rules for everyone and it is frustrating. We see that it is David versus Goliath.”)

It gets better (or worse). Hubert goes on to accuse all the AUS hockey schools in the Maritimes of breaking the rules, and comes off sounding very parochial (or regionally biased) in the process.

“Lorsque j'ai rencontré les entraîneurs de la conférence des Sports universitaires de l'Ontario, ils étaient tous, particulièrement ceux de la région de Toronto, vraiment outrés par la situation et par la quantité de joueurs qui, pour la même qualité de programme et d'enseignement, vont choisir une université dans les Maritimes. Si ces universités suivent le règlement et ne donnent pas d'argent à ces joueurs, ça leur coûtera très cher d'aller dans les Maritimes plutôt que de rester chez papa et maman. Si j'ai besoin de lait, je vais au dépanneur à côté de chez moi, je ne fais pas 25 km pour aller le chercher à Shawinigan.”

Excuse me if my translation isn’t perfect, as I did come up through a school system in the Maritimes:

“When I met with other coaches in the OUA conference, they all, and particularly in the Toronto region, are truly outraged by the situation and the quality of players who, despite the same quality of instructional programs here, chose to go to university in the Maritimes.  If these universities follow the rules and do not give money to the players, it would be a lot more expensive to go to the Maritimes rather than stay home with Dad and Mom. If I need milk, I go to the convenience store close by; I don’t go 25 km and look for it in Shawinigan.”

Well, you can imagine that didn’t go over very well chez UNB. In the same news article, V-Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall is quoted as saying “C'est un grand manque de professionnalisme de sa part, lance-t-il. Nous avons le plus bel aréna et de grosses foules. Tout les profits sont retournés à l'équipe. C'est ce qui fait que nous avons le meilleur programme et que les joueurs se joignent à nous.” (“It is a great lack of professionalism on his part. We have the finest arena with big crowds. All the profits go to the team. This is so that we have the best program and that players want to play with us.”)

The Shawinigan newspaper, L’Hebdo du St-Maurice, also had a story last week on the former Cataractes player and his decision to play for UNB. Beauvillier says that once the Florida organization decided to send him down to the ECHL he reflected that it might be better to go to school now, rather than start when he was 28 years old. He’s always liked marketing and wants to get a business degree.

He said he came close to choosing UQTR over UNB, but ever since he was 16 he’s wanted to become bilingual and that made the difference. He wants to read, speak and work in English. “Ça a été une décision très difficile. J'ai changé à plusieurs reprises. J'hésitais entre l'UQTR et l'UNB, mais le fait que je désire devenir bilingue depuis que j'ai 16 ans a fait pencher la balance. Je vais lire, écouter et travailler en anglais. Ça va m'aider encore plus.”

It is probably comes as no surprise that both UNB and the AUS have responded to Hubert’s comments through a series of phone calls and official letters of complaint to UQTR and the RESQ and OUA conferences. The CIS has also been apprised of UNB’s dissatisfaction with Hubert’s comments and aspersions. So far I have not heard about any consequences for the UQTR coach, but I know for a fact that such comments within the AUS would certainly earn you a suspension.

In today’s Daily Gleaner (pay-walled), Athletic Director John Richard made it clear that UNB is pretty peeved with the published comments and are seeking a public apology and some sort of discipline imposed on Hubert.

"Any time you work 23 hours a day, seven days a week like he (Gardiner MacDougall) does on one program, and someone takes a run at your program, you're going to get defensive," Richard said. "And he should. From the second I saw the comments, I thought they were way over the line. And everyone I've talked to from our conference with whom I've had this conversation agrees with me. It's way over the line. It's not grey.

"We feel this AUS conference is the best hockey conference in Canada. The tough part to swallow all the time is all the accusations coming from the rest of the country toward this conference."

Richard strongly backs his hockey coach.

"I've talked to Gardiner, and more importantly, I've talked to the student-athlete too. These are young men who have been making decisions since they were 15, 16 years old about where they're going to play hockey and what they're going to do. These guys aren't kids. They're men making decisions with their best interests in mind.

"I know our coach is really aggressive in recruiting," Richard said. "But I've never seen him drive to some other town, lock the kid up in his trunk and bring him to Fredericton and kidnap the kid. The guys that are here want to be here and I don't think he's (Bouvillier) any different."

Coincidentally the AUS AD’s had arranged some time ago to meet last week at Mount Allison University to discuss a variety of hockey related topics. No doubt this had to do with the AUS trying to be proactive after the CIS quietly announced this August the results of their investigation of the Dalhousie men’s hockey program, including the fact that Dal was to be sanctioned for two years, including last season. 

AD’s discussed hiring an employee or an independent firm to audit the hockey programs for compliance with CIS regulations, but there has been no firm movement yet. UNB’s Richard is in full support of the idea and said “I will be one of the schools to put my hand in the air and volunteer that we go first. I'll be at the front of the line." The AD’s also discussed the idea of a “letter of intent” to keep competing coaches from poaching potential recruits.

This is news in itself -- that the AUS AD’s can come up with recruiting improvements for men’s hockey other than the “UNB rule” that now limits roster sizes to 22 skaters. Now that they have to deal with the fallout from the Hubert accusations, maybe the AD’s can find the common ground to accelerate their desire to dial back the recruiting wars within the AUS.

UPDATE: In his weekly sports column in the Oct. 31 issue of The Daily Gleaner, Bill Hunt reported that UNB has yet to receive so much as an apology from UQTR and have elevated the issue to the CIS.
"If we received something like 'We apologize. We know that doesn't happen. We've spoken to our coach and it won't happen again,' we probably would have moved on," said (UNB Athletic Director John) Richard. "That's not what we received. Not even close."
CIS director of operations and development Tom Huisman is offering no comment:
"A condition of launching any complaint or appeal is that everyone involved agrees to a total media ban," he said. "If there is such a complaint run through the system, the final result will be made public."
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