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Luc-Olivier Blain proud to have played with two teams affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens

The lone Quebecer on the Brampton Beast made the most of his opportunity with the Laval Rocket.

Luc-Olivier Blain celebrates a goal at the Place Bell
Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

The Montreal Canadiens and Laval Rocket dealt with significant adversity this season, with injuries and departures from the organization. But with the adversity also came opportunity. As players were recalled from Laval to Montreal, many players from the ECHL’s Brampton Beast were also elevated on professional tryouts to the AHL.

Among them was Luc-Olivier Blain, the only Quebec-born player who started the season on an ECHL contract with the Canadiens’ affiliate. It was his second taste of AHL hockey with the farm team, but the first time he was able to play in front of his family in his home province.

“It’s my third season here in Brampton. The first season I was called up with the St. John’s IceCaps where I played a couple of games in Toronto, just around the corner. I didn’t travel with the team. This season the farm team moved to Laval, and I said to myself it would really be fun to play a few games there. I didn’t think it would ever happen, and then suddenly I was there, chez nous, scoring goals in front of my family, and friends were there. For me to play for the Canadiens — and I grew up a Canadiens fan — it was huge. And listen, I’m not too sure what I will be doing yet, but if I know that Brampton won’t be affiliated with Montreal any longer, I think that will make my decision easier to not come back.”

The affiliation agreement with the Montreal Canadiens is in fact coming to an end, and there has been no update on a renewal thus far, although Brampton Beast President Cary Kaplan says that discussions will occur soon.

Blain’s contract is also coming to a close as all ECHL contracts are one year only, and he’s not necessarily tying his future in Brampton to the affiliation status. “I think regardless of the affiliation it’s going to depend on the offers that I get. That’s the business. At 28 years old I feel like I’m playing my best hockey of my career right now.”

In 41 games with Brampton, the centreman scored nine goals and added 15 assists, equalling his points total from the previous season with 24, but in 26 fewer games. In 12 games with the Rocket he scored twice and added two assists while playing some scarce fourth-line minutes for the most part.

What did he think of Laval and Place Bell?

“Best in the league,” he said without a moment of hesitation. “I can’t say I’ve seen them all, but from what I did see and what all the guys from around the AHL are saying, it’s like playing at the Bell Centre. They are treated like kings there. Hot tub, cold tub, steam room, dry room, everything that you need. I would spend my entire day there if I could, but for them it’s just a normal day at the office.

“You get all this, and you get to play there. And you get a ton more money. There is no reason for you guys not to perform, why are you so bad? Laval had a great start, but real fast a lot of their best players were being called up: Byron Froese, Nicolas Deslauriers, Daniel Carr ... same thing for us. We were lucky in a few cases, like Marino, who has it in his contract that he can’t go up.

It was a really bad season for the Beast organization due to the double affiliation, but it was great for the players because a dozen or so were called up to Laval and Belleville and they were able to gain some AHL experience.

“I told [head coach Colin Chaulk] that we’ve had 12 or so guys that were called up during the season, and you never had a consistent lineup which is hard, and certainly the double affiliation with Belleville didn’t help the team either. If we can have just one it would be ideal. It’s certain that there is less opportunities for the players, but at the same time it gives us here a better chance to compete.”

Were there a lot of players who signed with the Beast because of the affiliation with the Canadiens?

“No. I really don’t think so. Here it’s mostly guys who come from the area, like Foster, Henry, Vallorani, Cianfrini, Traccitto; all guys with families in the area. Not a lot of Quebecers at all.

“Me and my brother [Jeremie Blain] played here together at one point. I think that I’m the only Quebecer who’s lasted as long here. For those guys the affiliation doesn’t mean that much just because this a good place to play. For me I grew up idolizing the Canadiens, so for me to wear the logo is something really important for me. C’est le fun d’être avec le Canadien.