HOCKEY. Serge Boisvert has been patrolling the arenas of North America and Europe for a dozen years now, in search of the rare pearls who will one day defend the uniform of the Montreal Canadiens. The Drummondvillois is not yet ready to put down his suitcase.
After a few seasons as a coach in Norway and a stint in the business world, Serge Boisvert joined the Canadiens’ recruiting department a dozen years ago. First assigned to the territory of Eastern Canada, he now acts as a scout on an international scale. Despite the new regime at the head of the organization, its role remains the same under the administration of recruiting directors Nick Brobov and Martin Lapointe.
“They call me the man with the suitcase, laughs Serge Boisvert in an interview with L’Express. I travel all over the world. Often it is plane after plane and country after country. In short, I’m the one giving the green light to Nick Brobov and Martin Lapointe. I advise them to go see such and such a player that we have targeted.
Recently, Serge Boisvert also completed a 14-day tour in Europe. The talent scout made stops in Sweden, Finland, Germany and Slovakia.
“It was an interesting trip, because I saw all the top prospects in Europe. This is an important year for the Canadian. It is among these players that we will draw this summer,” explained Serge Boisvert, referring to the repechage which will take place at the Bell Center on July 7 and 8.
In the performance of his duties, the former Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs forward is passionate about this opportunity to discover the famous rare pearl that will thrill the fans of the team.
“We do so many projections. We try to imagine this player in two, three or four years. What will it look like in the future? How will it develop? Of course, it’s not a 100% exact science. It’s completely normal to be wrong. The goal for me is to find the one who will reach the National League. When that happens, I can tell myself that I did well to bet on him. This is what gives me the adrenaline needed to continue this work that I love so much.”
hockey and tennis
According to Serge Boisvert, the first quality of a recruiter remains his eye. The hockey man uses his judgment to form his own opinion of a player.
“You are a scout with your eyes, not with your ears! What people say or have heard of a player is not important. What is important is to see the player with his own eyes”, expresses the one whose family still resides in Drummondville.
And what skills does Serge Boisvert look for in a young hockey player? “Primarily, it is his sense of hockey. For me, if a player has this quality, he has a very good start. I observe his positioning a lot, his way of reacting under pressure and his decisions with the puck, ”explains the one who compares hockey … to tennis.
“In a tennis match, when you don’t have the ball, you play defensively. But when you have the ball, you play attacking. You have to be creative. To me, the game of hockey is the same. When you don’t have the puck, you have to rely on the game system, but when you have the puck, be creative! You have to know when to go and when not to go.
Having had a long career in the professional ranks, he who played in Switzerland, Sweden and Norway after lifting the Calder Cup in 1985 and the Stanley Cup in 1986 in the organization of the Canadiens, Serge Boisvert uses his past as a player to better assess international hopefuls.
“As I played the game, I can see many details in their game. For example, I can see if a player is going into the corners of the rink or if he has a hesitation; if he darkens or if he is chilly. I also notice if he sees the game around him well. If he gives the puck to the left when he should have given it to the right, it lights a light for me, ”he suggests.
National League scouts also attach great importance to the one-on-one interviews they conduct with young prospects.
“We try to know the young man behind the athlete. What’s hiding under his hockey helmet? Especially in the market in Montreal, which is not easy. The little guy must have a fantastic character to play in this city. He must be mentally strong. It’s a quality that we look for a lot off the ice,” said the member of the Canadian team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988.
Beyond the answers provided by the young athletes, Serge Boisvert is also interested in his non-verbal language.
“It says a lot about the player. Often, he will behave in the interview the same way he plays the same way on the ice. I remember our interview with Nick Suzuki. He was very cerebral. He paused before answering each question. That’s how he plays hockey. He is an intelligent athlete who analyzes the game in front of him.
Proud of his choices
Among the young wolves recruited by the Canadians in recent years, Serge Boisvert is particularly proud of the selection of Xavier Simoneau. The former Drummondville Voltigeurs captain was selected in the sixth round last year.
“I was so happy to draft him! With a guy like Xavier, you can’t go wrong. Will he play in the National League one day? I don’t know, but one thing is certain: he will do everything to get there. He’s a little guy with character. He has dog and he always gives 100%, ”lists Serge Boisvert.
For many observers, Simoneau’s modest size is nevertheless a question mark. Himself considered a small player at the time when he broke through in the NHL, Serge Boisvert rejects this criticism out of hand.
“I compare him a lot to David Desharnais, who had a great career in the National League. Me, I no longer bet against these guys, because they will do everything to make you lie. I am convinced that Xavier will force the note to achieve his dream. The presence of Martin St-Louis behind the bench is also an advantage for him. He is a coach who loves this type of player.
The selections of Riley Kidney in the second round and Joshua Roy in the fifth round in 2021 are also the pride of Serge Boisvert. The former Sherbrooke Castors captain is impressed by the hockey sense of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan center and the intelligence of the Sherbrooke Phoenix left winger.
“What Joshua is accomplishing this season is fantastic! I followed him so much during his draft year. I wanted to be sure to know what type of player we were going to draft. I talked a lot with his private trainer. I knew his work ethic wasn’t A+, but I could see there was something to build with him. Today, we are very proud of his evolution.”
Whether it occurs in the first or last round, each choice is therefore important in the eyes of the multi-territorial recruiter. “Obviously, you can’t make mistakes in the first rounds, but when you draft a player like Jake Evans in the seventh round, it’s a real home run,” he says, while insisting on the notion of hard work. ‘team. In the past 12 years, we have made good choices and less good ones, but we win together and we lose together.
Now 62 years old, Serge Boisvert intends to continue lugging his suitcase to analyze the game of the best hopes on the planet for a few more seasons.
“I don’t call it a job: I call it a passion! I love being in arenas all over the world. As a former hockey player, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s fantastic, ”concludes the former number 12 of the Habs.