The roster of the 1987-88 National Championship-winning Notre Dame Hounds Junior ‘A’ featured men that would go on to play over 3,000 games combined in the National Hockey League.
That being said, it was a player that contributed none of them who is most remembered for bringing the locker room together.
That man is Stephane Gauvin, who went on to play four years at Cornell University, and is presently the principal of Central Collegiate, a high school in Moose Jaw, SK.
The left-winger’s role as the ‘glue guy’ on the team 30 years ago is one that is well recognized by those who knew that team, but unsurprisingly he is quick to deflect that praise.
“We had some really good leadership from a number of people,” he says.
“Some were quieter, some more vocal, and some demonstrated their leadership skills by giving anything it took to be successful. We looked to Rod Brind’Amour as our leader on and off the ice because of his work ethic, but there were all sorts of guys that would throw their body in front of anything for the good of the team. Everybody contributed in some way, and that was the beauty of it. We also had tons of talent, so that was fun to be a part of as well, but off the ice it was really a full team effort. I never experienced something like it before or since.”
The concept of the ‘glue guy’ in a dressing room is centred on the idea of someone who knows the pulse of the club, and acts in an unselfish way to keep the team heading together in the right direction.
For the modern Hounds, like in Gauvin’s time, there is a cadre of strong voices in the room; but two veterans: goaltender Jacob Standen, and long-time Western Hockey Leaguer Jack Flaman, have particularly taken vocal, ‘glue guy’ roles.
“I think that guy is someone who is not afraid to say something,” says Flaman.
“When things are tough as a team, he’s the first to try to be a part of the solution. When things are going well, he is the first to smile. I think the glue guy has to be around all the time, he has to be at the rink every day with a positive attitude, pushing everyone to be a little bit better every day.”
A key part of knowing that team pulse is always going to be based on understanding the different types of adversity that come along over the course of a season.
To Gauvin, the Notre Dame way - that of embracing struggle as a means to grow and emerge through difficulty - puts Hounds teams in a unique situation to be successful in that regard.
“I think we got that from Pere Murray,” he says.
“Being at Notre Dame is tough, so you’re going to have a lot of resiliency if you make it here; your ability to bounce back from all those setbacks will make all the difference. I remember we were down three games to one to Calgary to determine whether we would go to the Centennial Cup, and Tarry McGary, a long-time poet/philosopher of Notre Dame college at the time, hung up a poster in a room that said ‘there was a vision in his mind undimmed through all adversity’, and for whatever reason that kind of sparked all of us. It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but instead we decided we were going to bounce back for this game and take it one game at a time, and eventually we just did. But the ability to get through adversity was what Notre Dame is all about.”
Standen and Flaman on the 2017-18 Hounds, both in their final year of junior hockey, have already come through all sorts of hockey adversity, having been moved and traded literally every season of their junior careers to date.
Yet both have come to understand that the Notre Dame setup, one where the players are around each other far more constantly than other junior programs, is a perfect breeding ground for the type of team unity that can make a season special.
“When you live together in the dorms you click instantly,” says Standen.
“It takes a week or two, you get nicknames, and the whole bonding process is expedited ten-fold. You get into camp, it’s like everyone has known each other for years. It has been a bit of a challenge (being someone who came in at the start of the year), but it has been the best-case scenario for a guy like me.”
One can never predict the way a season will end on the ice, but with tremendous glue guys like Flaman and Standen walking in Gauvin’s footsteps, as well as the entire leadership group headed up by the team’s captain Chance Longjohn, it can almost be assured that the Hounds will be a team all pulling the same direction.
For Standen, who played on a dominant, winning prep school team in Ontario, the habits that turn team unity into championships are already abundant on this year’s club.
“I’d say that consistent sacrifice, and putting the team first, is the biggest difference between successful teams and unsuccessful ones,” he says.
“It sounds cliché, but it is cliché for a reason: guys need to be willing to do anything for each other. Guys that are used to scoring huge points in a year are willing to block shots, or pass up points for their teammates, and that just translates to wins. We’ve seen that type of sacrifice here really early, guys blocking three or four shots a shift, devoting every ounce of their strength just for a win. Teams that just want to win, from the top to the bottom of the line-up…that is when you get a successful club.”
Gauvin and his men figured it out, now it’s up to the modern Hounds to follow suit.