2022  o l y m  noreau  feature

Answering the call

It wasn’t the career path he imagined, but playing in Switzerland has led to countless Hockey Canada opportunities for Maxim Noreau

Lee Boyadjian
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February 16, 2022
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He led Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team in scoring and captured a bronze medal in PyeongChang. He has won four Spengler Cup titles in six appearances, including four times as captain. And yet even with so much international success, Maxim Noreau may not be a household hockey name in Canada, thanks to the majority of his career being overseas.

“I’m not going to dwell on the ifs, ands or buts,” Noreau says of his time working his through the North American system. “At the end of the day, I’m 34 and still getting paid to play hockey but I don’t even consider it a job.

“I still love going to the rink in the morning. I jump out of bed, I just love doing it.”

It’s that passion exhibited by the Montreal product that has made him a repeat representative of the red and white. No matter when the call comes, Noreau answers.

“For him to always answer the call the way he has and not only answer but deliver when he’s there, says a lot about him and his willingness to support the program and his country,” says Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of hockey operations with Hockey Canada.

Noreau spent three seasons with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but was undrafted to the National Hockey League (NHL). In 2008, the defenceman signed an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild and spent the majority of three seasons with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Houston Aeros.

He made his NHL debut in the 2009-10 season, appearing in just one game. The following season, Noreau played five more NHL contests, though didn’t record a point. He finished the year with the Aeros, was named to the AHL First All-Star Team, then traded to the New Jersey Devils in the off-season.

In 2011-12, Noreau made the decision to head overseas to play in the Swiss National League. And it was during that season he first put on the Maple Leaf at the Spengler Cup.

“It’s always an honour and a privilege [to represent Canada] and I don’t take it for granted,” Noreau says. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to [go to the Olympics] once, let alone twice so I’m definitely happy to have the opportunity.”

The lead up to the 2018 Games was very different from his Beijing experience, Noreau says. A handful of European tournaments provided Team Canada management with scouting opportunities to form a more cohesive team. Though it also made for a busier schedule for the players.

“Every time I’d get a break in Switzerland, instead of going on vacation like everyone else I’d be jumping on a plane in Zurich and going to Moscow or Finland or wherever [the tournament] was,” Noreau recalls. “So, to get that call [that he made the Olympic team], I definitely got choked up … just knowing all the stuff I had to go through to get there.

“Now I think my career, trying to be consistent, trying to be a good person, be a good guy in the room I think has paid it back where for [these Games] I didn’t have to showcase … people know what they’re getting.”

Noreau is in his third season with the ZSC Lions, his third club in Switzerland. Head coach Rikard Grönborg says ZSC has seven players in Beijing, not the least of them their lone Canadian defenceman.

“Max is a natural leader and continually inspires his teammates to perform to the best of the capabilities,” Grönborg says. “It is my honour and privilege to work with such talented players but more importantly wonderful and stand-up people.”

Salmond agrees, pointing out Noreau is wearing an ‘A’ at the Games.

“I think he’s a real pro … the way he handles himself, the way he is around the younger players and, again, that experience around Team Canada,” Salmond says. “Understanding the expectations we have as a program and a country in the way that we want to win and the way we want to play [is an asset to the team].”

“Anytime you get Canadians together in a room, especially a hockey room we all know what is expected of us,” Noreau says. “You can’t be scared to say your ultimate goal is to win the gold medal.”

A gold medal which would certainly be the featured item in an already packed Team Canada trophy case for one of the least well-known though highly decorated Canadian hockey players.

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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