The year after retiring from professional hockey, Bruno Gervais turned to coaching of a peewee AAA team. His goal ? Give back to young people. It was finally “a cold shower”, he says. “I had become a sports psychologist. »
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“I discovered all that was the pressure, what was behind, relates the former NHL player and analyst at RDS. […] What was going through the heads of these players, I said to myself: well, let’s see! »
Filled with goodwill, Gervais began to set up a conference to help the parents of athletes. That year, in 2019, he also took part in the Canadian reality show Battle of the Bladesin which hockey players team up with figure skaters to compete in an ice-dancing competition to benefit charity.
It was there, in the middle of a skating session, that Gervais met Sheldon Kennedy, the man who denounced the sexual abuse he suffered when he was playing at the junior level. Kennedy is also the co-founder of the Respect Group, a non-profit organization that has been providing online training on bullying, abuse, harassment, discrimination and, of course, respect for over 20 years.
A world he thought he knew
Gervais took the opportunity to talk about his coaching experience with Kennedy, who introduced him to the parent training offered by his organization. The Quebecer, intrigued and interested, finally followed each of the training courses one by one.
” [Sheldon Kennedy] opened me up to a world I thought I knew, he says. But I really only knew the tip of the iceberg. »
The native of Saint-Hilaire describes himself as a “human relations guy”, who likes to meet and discover people. He quickly offered to join the Respect Group, of which he is now Director of Partner Relations. There he discovered a new passion, but above all, a new mission.
“The goal is to open the conversation” about respect. A concept that is at once so simple, yet so complicated…
Communicate and find solutions
Bruno Gervais has never experienced harassment or abuse, in hockey or in his professional life. And that’s, strangely, partly why he works today with the Respect Group.
“I realize twice how lucky I am,” he said. It’s so prevalent. I had a dad who, when I left my matches, said to me: “Have you given everything you have? Did you have fun?” Those were his only two questions and sometimes he wouldn’t even listen to my answer because it was for me. I have never, in my life, had an ounce of pressure. »
I had coaches who were a little more demanding, but overall I was super lucky.
“I have always been placed in positive situations. Then there, you realize that many people tell completely different stories. I see the impact it had on their lives. There are some who come out of there destroyed by their sport, by the relationships they have had, ”he adds.
Harassment is common, in sport and in life. We are not talking here only about sexual harassment, but also about psychological harassment, conscious or unconscious.
“There are some for whom it’s very hard because they’ve worked hard to get there and they say: ‘Listen to what I’m saying, it works the same way.’ But that’s not it anymore, it won’t work. In addition, we are in a position where there is a lack of people, of personnel. If you want to keep him, he must feel at home with you. This is where the performance is going to be. But how do you do it? »
“I’m going to take up what Martin St-Louis says, and it’s something that I teach my children in life: if there is something, we talk about it and we find solutions. It’s not pointing and saying, “Out.” It is not by putting people out that you will continue to move forward. It is by finding solutions. »
To grow all organizations
In the wake of the Kyle Beach affair, the NHL agreed, at the beginning of December, on a partnership with the Respect Group. All teams will receive training on respect in the workplace.
In interview with The Press, on March 3, the vice-president of community involvement of the Montreal Canadiens, Geneviève Paquette, pointed out that all players, hockey and support department staff as well as office employees of the Habs would follow said training. A decision taken in particular following the selection by the Canadian defender Logan Mailloux, found guilty by the Swedish courts of having photographed, without his consent, his sexual partner, of having distributed the photo and revealing the identity of the young woman to her teammates.
The training “does not come to solve all the problems of the world”, warns Gervais, but “it comes to set a standard, to open conversations”.
“What I love about Geneviève’s approach [Paquette]it’s not just to make him grow [Logan Mailloux] or young people, adds the former New York Islanders. It is to make his whole organization grow. She takes this opportunity to take a step forward on this. It’s just positive. »