Like a lot of junior hockey players, I have big goals for my hockey career.
But there’s one that’s more important to me than anything else.
I want to be a role model for young Black kids.
I’ve dealt with racism in hockey. I’ve been called names on the ice. And
it’s hard. I learned to use the hateful words as motivation for my own
game, to prove the haters wrong.
It’s encouraging to see that leagues and federations are taking tangible
steps to remove racism from the game, but I’m motivated to do what I can to
make the game a better place. To make it safer and more welcoming for
everyone, regardless of the colour of their skin. I want to follow in the
footsteps of players like Anthony Duclair and P.K. Subban, and hopefully
join in the work being done by the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
The world has seen a lot of change in the last year, and I want to be part
of that change. I may only be 16, but I want my voice to be heard – now and
in the future.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say I was born to be an athlete. My
grandfather, Raynald Boutin, played in the QMJHL with Chicoutimi in the
1960s. My father, Claude, played through Midget [now U18] and was a swim
coach, and my mother, Magalie, was a nationally ranked swimmer.
I played everything growing up; I swam, and I played soccer, tennis and
basketball. But there was nothing like hockey for me. From the first time I
got on the outdoor rink with my friends, I knew that was where I belonged.
It fed my passion for the game, and I’ve still got that passion today.
My path hasn’t been much different than so many other players across the
country. I started out in MAHG here in Quebec, and just worked my way up. I
played for a few LHAs in and around Richelieu, finishing my minor hockey
career with the Riverains du Collège Charles-Lemoyne in the LHMAAAQ.
I will admit, I wasn’t very good when I started. But I always wanted to be
better. I watched older players and told my dad I wanted to be as good as
them. So, he helped make that happen. We trained during the season and
during the summer to make me a better player.
It didn’t hurt that I had a huge growth spurt when I was 10 years old.
After that I moved from forward to defence to take advantage my size, and
today I’m 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds.
I had a couple of great seasons with Charles-Lemoyne, which helped me get
selected eighth overall by Gatineau in the QMJHL Draft last June. I was
actually the fourth pick by the Olympiques in the first round – the team
picked first, second, fourth and eighth. It has been an interesting rookie
season thanks to COVID-19. We had our camp in the fall, but the season has
been a lot of stops and starts. It has been a challenge, but there is a lot
to look forward to.
Without a doubt, my career highlight came last January when I was selected
to represent Canada at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. I have watched the
Olympics imagining myself wearing the Maple Leaf, and to do it at 15 years
old was a dream come true.
We won bronze, which was great, but it was all about the experience. I had
been to Europe for hockey before, but this was so much different. To play
against the Russians and the Americans, to measure myself against the best
players in the world … it opened my eyes to what I needed to work on.
I hope that’s just the first international experience I’ll have. It was
disappointing to have the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge cancelled this
season because of the pandemic, but I know there will be other
Every up and down I’ve had in the game has helped me learn my strengths and
my weaknesses. My size is definitely a positive. I’m a big body who likes
to play physical. I have a heavy shot, but I need to get it on net more.
And I can make better decisions.
But the best part is I’m only 16. I know I’m going to get better and gain
Hopefully, I’ll hear my name called at the NHL Draft in the summer of 2022,
hopefully, I’ll have a career in the National Hockey League, and hopefully
– as I said earlier – I’ll have a role in continuing to make hockey a more
diverse and inclusive game.
I’m excited to look to the future. For myself, for my family and for the
Black players who will follow me.