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
“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,
“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
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.