The Panthers champions | Sylvain Lefebvre never stopped believing in it

(Sunrise, Fla.) On-ice interviews with Stanley Cup champions are always on hiatus. Normal: between their adorable children, their better half, their good friends, their loyal colleagues and the pesky journalists, the choice is easy.


Posted at 3:08 p.m.



This is even more true with those who have a lot of family. Like Sylvain Lefebvre, who, in a few minutes in front of us, navigated between his roles as coach, grandfather, father and husband.

His daughter Alexanne hugs him. “She was born in 1996, she was baptized in the Stanley Cup. There, she has a little guy that she wants to baptize in the Cup. We think this is the first time this will be done! », says the coach to a handful of Quebec reporters around him, during the celebrations on Monday.

He interrupts his story for a family portrait. “Missing my oldest, Jade-Isis, she is pregnant and about to give birth. This will be my sixth grandchild, he said proudly. To be able to experience this together… It’s not just my efforts, it’s their efforts too. What we have had to experience in recent years, we did as a gang and it brought us even closer. »

A complicated path

Lefebvre experiences the euphoria of a Stanley Cup for the second time in his career. The first time, it was as a player, with the Avalanche in 1996. It was also right here, in this vast expanse of asphalt that is South Florida, since Colorado had precisely defeated the Panthers finally.

However, it was a very improbable victory that he savored on Monday, because there have been many detours since.

We can think of his stay with the Canadiens’ school club, in a difficult context for many reasons. His six seasons at the helm of the team took place in three cities (Hamilton, St. John’s and Laval), at a time when the amateur recruiting department was experiencing one series of failures. In six years, the team has made the playoffs only once.

PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Sylvain Lefebvre when he led the Laval Rocket in 2018

Except that our man’s reputation remained good despite everything, since the Panthers are the third team to have hired him since. He spent three years with the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ farm club. Then, in 2021, the doors of the NHL finally opened to him, again, when the Blue Jackets hired him as an assistant to Brad Larsen. However, he was never able to undertake this mandate since in mid-September, he had to give up his position due to his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

A year later, once the vaccination requirements fell, he received the call from Paul Maurice to join the Panthers.

“If I have a message of hope to send, it is to believe in yourself, to believe in life,” said Lefebvre. If one door closes, another will open, usually a better one. I believed in life, I believed in my values. I believed that if you make a decision with your heart, it’s usually the right one. Even if I didn’t come back to the National League, it was okay, I was able to live with that. I knew there were steps to take and that when the time came, it would be the right time.

“You all know what happened with Columbus. But if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here. Everything happens for a reason. »

PHOTO GUILLAUME LEFRANÇOIS, THE PRESS

Sylvain Lefebvre (right) celebrates on the ice with his grandson.

A uni personnel

With Maurice, Jamie Kompon, Myles Fee and Tuomo Ruutu, the Panthers had a visibly united coaching staff.

In his press briefing on Monday, Maurice also said that it was thanks to Lefebvre that he understood that the championship was won. “The last time I looked at the clock, there was 1:23 left. The play continued, then the puck ended up in the corner, and Sylvain grabbed my head and said, “Well done, Bear.” When we got there, I knew we had a good chance! »

“I am so proud for Paul Maurice, proud that we won this for him,” added Lefebvre. He has an incredible career. To say that a match will determine his legacy is bullshit. I learn every day with him. He’s a very bright, human guy who wants the guys around him to be successful. »

A McGill record holder

PHOTO REBECCA BLACKWELL, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida Panthers assistant coach Jamie Kompon

It didn’t exactly make the headlines in the local newspapers, but Jamie Kompon, another assistant to Paul Maurice, lifted the Stanley Cup for the third time in his career, after triumphs with the Los Angeles Kings (2012 ) and the Chicago Blackhawks (2013). He thus became the first assistant coach in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams. Kompon also has his ties to Montreal: he played four years at McGill and coached there for five years. “McGill won the bronze medal [au championnat universitaire canadien] this winter and there, it’s the icing on the Cup! », he said to The Press. He ended up in Montreal by chance. “The McGill coach was a good friend of one of my teachers in high school, they had played together at McMaster. I had the grades to get in, so I was accepted into the hockey team. I had never set foot there, and here I am at 18! My years at McGill opened doors for me and I am very happy about them. » Kompon, an Ontarian from Thunder Bay, apologized for losing the basic French he had learned. “My roommate was French-speaking, so we alternated: he had to read the newspaper in English and I had to read the newspaper in French. But I lost everything. I don’t want to age myself, but it’s been so long! »

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