2021 wjc tourigny feature

Bear knows best

No Canadian coach has spent more time behind the bench at the World Juniors than André Tourigny, whose two decades in the game have prepared him for his toughest task in Edmonton

Jason La Rose
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December 29, 2020
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André Tourigny has spent 15 seasons as a head coach in Major Junior hockey. He has been coach of the year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League.

He has won gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship and Hlinka Gretzky Cup, has three seasons as an assistant coach in the National Hockey League on his résumé and is one of the most respected bench bosses in the game.

And the story of how he first became a coach is about as unglamorous as it gets.

“It was the boyfriend of a cousin of my [now] wife and he needed an assistant coach, so he asked me,” he says of joining a U13 team in the fall of 1994, when he was 20 years old. “Two weeks later he got a job and couldn’t be the coach anymore, so I took over.”

He spent one year in U13, two in U15 and one as an assistant coach in U18 before he signed on as an assistant coach with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL for the 1998-99 season.

After two seasons in Shawinigan and two back in U18 with the Trois-Rivières Estacades, a 28-year-old Tourigny got his first QMJHL head coaching gig with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in November 2002.

The rest is history.

“I like to lead people,” the coach affectionately known as ‘Bear’ says of what he enjoys about coaching. “I like the strategy. I like the game [within the game] behind the bench. I like to teach. The thing I like the most now, it's building a culture, values, developing young men.”

For the last six weeks, Tourigny has been tasked with developing the best and brightest young stars in the game as head coach of Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

It’s the fifth time he has been part of the coaching staff – more than any other Canadian coach in the history of the tournament – but the first time he has had the top job (he was an assistant in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2020).

“Every year it's a tradition around Christmas,” Tourigny says of the World Juniors. “There's nothing bigger than that at junior level. It has always been a dream of mine, making our country and the people proud. I think there's nothing better than that.”

Of course, the road to the 2021 tournament has not been a smooth one. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the hockey world, meaning Team Canada first got together Nov. 16 for selection camp, some four weeks earlier than normal.

Throw in the fact most of the players invited hadn’t played a game in eight months, plus an unplanned two-week quarantine in the middle of camp and dealing with the challenges of a bubble environment in Edmonton, and this will likely go down as Tourigny’s most difficult coaching assignment.

But adversity at the World Juniors? That’s nothing new.

“Every year they give you your hand and you need to play your cards right,” he says. “They're all different. I’ve been there when there was an NHL lockout [in 2013]. I've been in the situation where we were defending five [gold medals] in a row at home [in 2010]. They're all unbelievable challenges.

“So, there's no such thing as one that was not as difficult. It's always unbelievably difficult. And that’s what makes it so special. If it was not difficult, everybody could do it. That's a part of the privilege.”

There really isn’t much Tourigny hasn’t experienced in his coaching career. After 11 years in Rouyn-Noranda, he joined Patrick Roy’s staff with the Colorado Avalanche for two seasons, then spent one as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators.

He returned to the QMJHL for one season with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17 before taking his current role as head coach and vice-president of hockey operations with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL the next year.

Tourigny’s international achievements date back more than a decade. Once he learned English – at the request of his players with the Huskies – new doors opened and intriguing opportunities presented themselves.

He was prodded to apply to Hockey Canada, got his first assignment as an assistant with Canada’s gold medal-winning National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team at the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament and was off and running from there.

On top of his World Juniors exploits, his only previous head coaching experience with Team Canada came at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, when he led his team – which included 11 players who are on the World Juniors roster this year – to gold in Edmonton.

“Before [I learned English] it was not something I ever thought about because it was not something that was available to me,” Tourigny says. “It is a dream for me to coach my country.”

While Tourigny is quick to rattle off the Hockey Canada hierarchy who have given him his opportunities – Bob Nicholson, Tom Renney, Brad Pascall and Scott Salmond are the first names from his mouth – there is one special group of people for whom he reserves his highest praise.

None of what he has done in his coaching career would have been possible without the backing of his family – wife Mélanie, 20-year-old twin sons Félix-Antoine and Jean-Philippe, and daughter Marie-Léa, 17.

“They have sacrificed so much,” Tourigny says. “They’ve got their Team Canada jerseys on, always supporting me. And every year I feel they're as excited as I am to be part of it.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
dsaillant@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

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