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Alexandre Alain starting to feel “more comfortable” with Laval Rocket

The 21-year-old forward is making his presence felt in Laval.

Club de hockey Canadien

On a Tuesday night against the rival Toronto Marlies, Laval Rocket forward Alexandre Alain had all the time in the world.

The Laval Rocket were on a power play and Alain held the puck along the half-wall. It only took him a second and a half to make a decision. He fired the puck to his left, where he found the bigger, burly captain Byron Froese along the side of the crease. Froese did the rest, making his way to the net and scoring.

“[Sproul] gave me a great pass,” Alain said. “I had a lot of time on the half-wall and I saw [Froese], he had a lot of space in the corner. So, I just passed it to him and he did a really nice play.”

Alain has been making the most of his time as a professional hockey player for the Rocket. His scoring and playmaking abilities, which made him a standout Junior talent under Joël Bouchard’s tutelage on a Blainville-Boisbriand Armada squad, are slowly starting to bear fruit for Laval in these last few games. The 21-year-old has three goals and an assist in his last four matches, and he’s getting some time on the power play.

“Right now I feel more comfortable,” Alain added. “It’s nice to contribute offensively,.

In addition to playing hockey, the young forward is also a man who prides himself on academics, having won the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence and Merit this past spring.

“He’s going to be a millionaire no matter what,” Bouchard said. “He’s really smart. Don’t have concern for his future in hockey. Don’t have concern for his future after hockey,”

Alain seems to be finding his way. But five years ago, a health scare could have derailed all of this. His hockey career, and ultimately, his life.

As a 16-year old, Alain was a first-round pick of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, then coached by current Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx. The youngster was raring to go for his first Junior season, but he was curiously under some pain months before he suited up.

“I just started feeling a lot of pain in my back and in my leg,” Alain said. “It was pressing one of my nerves,”

A couple of days later, Alain got his injury checked out. A magnetic resonance image revealed a tumour was near his spinal cord.

“I was scared,” Alain said. “That was not normal that I had this type of pain in my back. After that I received a call from the doctor to say that I had a tumour in my back. I didn’t know if it was [cancerous] or not.

“My family and I were really concerned. I was in so much pain. I was just praying to just take out this tumour”

Following the surgery, Alain remained in hospital for a week. Fortunately for the 16-year old, his tumour was benign.

“I was lucky to be able to continue after that,” Alain said.

He took five months off to recuperate and only started skating a month before Olympiques training camp. He was used sparingly in his debut season, playing 12 games and registering no points, and instead spent most of the year with his Midget AAA squad, the Séminaire St-François Blizzard.

Following two seasons with the Olympiques, Alain switched jerseys for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada where he was coached by future Rocket head coach Bouchard. The two would make the jump to the Canadiens during this off-season, with Alain signing a three-year entry-level deal and joining their American Hockey League affiliate in Laval.

Points were hard to come by for Alain in his first few games. The forward had just three in his first 11 contests at the pro level. Bouchard knows Alain is a guy who puts a lot of pressure on himself, and he felt he may have been overthinking and squeezing his stick too hard.

In order to connect with Alain, sometime before a Nov. 7 road game against the Utica Comets, Bouchard called for a one-on-one meeting.

“I gave him some love and a hug,” Bouchard said. “Oh yeah, I hugged him. I hug my players. I’m tough on them, but I did give him a hug,”

That night, Alain scored. He also scored a goal in the next two games against the Cleveland Monsters. While his goal-scoring streak snapped Tuesday in a 6-2 win over the Toronto Marlies, he picked up the assist on Froese’s power-play goal to extend his points streak.

“[Joël’s] been a really good coach and person for me,” Alain said. “When I went to the Armada when I was 18, I really developed myself as a hockey player and a person, too. That’s when I really improved myself the most. It’s really great again to have Joël this year.”

While recovering from the tumour removal initially slowed his development, Alain has taken the time to have perspective from a potentially damaging moment of his life.

“I grew a lot because of that,” Alain said. “I spent so much time in the hospital. I see my life differently. I just want to enjoy myself, playing hockey the best I can. That’s what I try to do, every day.”