Jonathan Deschênes: from junior A to coach at the QMJHL
Nothing seemed to indicate that Jonathan Deschênes would one day stand up behind the bench of a QMJHL team. A “working” goalkeeper who “lacks talent”, Stéphane Julien's assistant at the Sherbrooke Phœnix nevertheless found himself in the highest junior level at only 28 years old.
“The first time I played on the team I wanted to play for, without being cut off at camp, I was in junior AA. And I would never bet on that! », Launches the young thirty-year-old, who played in Junior A the previous year.
Unlike all his counterparts, Deschênes never played in midget AAA or junior AAA. No, he rather rolled his bump in the weaker categories. What to inspire young people of all levels who, like him, are passionate about their sport and who dream of making it their life.
Because of hockey, Deschênes has always eaten it. His earliest memories date back to a game between the Canadiens and the Nordiques, which he watched alongside his father, Louis.
“It's blurry, but I remember the reds and blues,” said the assistant from Quebec. Later, I asked my parents to sign me up for hockey. They didn't want right away, they wanted me to do a year of figure skating.
“Once the year was over, I got off the ice and said, ‘OK, I’m signed up for hockey. »
The summer that changed everything
Deschênes has therefore always been in love with hockey. But this ethic that characterized his dazzling career came at the start of adolescence, when he was kicked out of a sports-studies program for… his lack of work.
Jonathan Deschênes during his years as a caretaker. He was then playing in Charlesbourg, in the novice C category.
“I liked it, but I didn’t know how to work. During the summer, my father told me that if I wanted to continue hockey, I had to find a job to pay for my next season and maybe some of my equipment. »
Deschênes was then 12 or 13 years old. He was hired at a garden center in Quebec, where he brought customers' purchases to their car. “Good training! “, he underlines today.
But not only that. Because at the same time, his dad, seeing his son's efforts, had enrolled him in another sports-study program.
“It was the turning point, admits Deschênes. Coming so close to losing the hockey that I loved so much made me realize that I never wanted that to happen to me. »
“If you spoke to the coaches of the two programs, they would have a totally different view of me,” he adds. One would say that I didn't work very hard, but I really liked it. The other would say that I was among the hardest working despite a lack of talent.
Inspired by 'Moneyball'
Deschênes never strayed from hockey again. On the contrary, barely a few years later, he began to combine coaching jobs, in addition to doing a bachelor's degree in sports intervention focused on coaching at Laval University.
He was notably an assistant with the Lévis Knights when the midget AAA team signed its historic season in 2018-2019, with a certain Joshua Roy in its ranks.
A logical choice for this passionate offensive goalkeeper, who drank in the words of his mentors.
At the same time, at university, Deschênes launched with colleagues and friends his advanced statistics company, PASS Hockey. At the time, the concept was a bit new age, he admits, explaining that he was inspired by the film Moneyball.
But this decision made him fall into the eye of Benoît Groulx, the Syracuse Crunch coach, who called him to explain his concept to him, then eventually into that of Stéphane Julien.
< p>Jonathan Deschênes recognizes this. Coaching in the QMJHL has always been one of his goals. But in his imagination, “it was much later!
“When I thought about that, with a friend, I saw myself in the QMJHL at 35 years old. And I was going to reach the NHL, but so late that I was going to die five years later.
Finally, Deschênes was 28 when he received the long-awaited call from the Phoenix. If the trend continues, the unexpected assistant will also reach his ultimate goal sooner than expected.
SILENCE IN THE CAR AFTER HIS INTERVIEW
If Jonathan Deschênes defied the odds by carving out a position as an assistant coach in the QMJHL so quickly, he never believed that he would be offered such a role with the Sherbrooke Phoenix either.
Jonathan Deschênes (right) enjoys the role of assistant to Stéphane Julien with the Sherbrooke Phoenix. So much so that he would rather continue to climb the ladder as an assistant rather than be a head coach. At least for the moment.
It's because his interview with Stéphane Julien, obtained in particular thanks to a helping hand from Éric Bélanger and Mathieu Turcotte, with whom he led the Chevaliers de Lévis, had been, to say the least… full-bodied. < /p>
“I walked out of the interview and I was sure I didn't have it!” Steph came back three or four times. He talked to me a lot about advanced statistics. »
” He said to me: “There, convince me that you know what it is to coach, beyond the figures and the video. Because you haven't convinced me.” »
So much so that when he left Sherbrooke for Quebec City, Deschênes spent an hour and a half lost in thought in his car, “reinventing his interview”.
A call on the ice cream
But the enthusiast didn't have to worry so much. The next day, while he was on the ice at a hockey school, he received a call from Julien who offered him the job.
In Sherbrooke, Deschênes notably takes care of the power play of the Phoenix, which ranks first on the Courteau circuit this season, with an efficiency percentage of 29.3%.
He has also had the chance to replace his boss behind the bench for a few games, notably when Stéphane Julien was with Junior Team Canada at the World Championships, at the start of the year.
If he admits to having experienced strong feelings, in particular during this match in Quebec where, in front of 16,000 people, he beat the Remparts of Patrick Roy, Deschênes specifies however that he prefers as assistant.
“It's a small ass dream I didn't know I had!” he says about this game. Maybe one day I'll be a head coach, but I don't think that would be my best chair. »
As a former goaltender, Jonathan Deschênes explains that he received “a lot of one-on-one coaching”.
“I brought this with me. But in the long term, my goal would be to raise the levels of hockey rather than to be a head coach at the junior level. At least for the moment. »
« I like to be close to the players. That they can talk to me about pretty much anything. Transmit to them the pleasure of being at the arena. Show them that I'm hardworking and that I'm there for them. »
The performance of the week
< p>A goal and three assists last Thursday against the Moncton Wildcats
The Victoriaville Tigres defenseman was brilliant in a 6-3 Tigres win over the Moncton Wildcats. The next day, he added two assists in a win over the Val-d'Or Foreurs. These two games earned him the title of player of the week in the QMJHL.
Number of the week
The QMJHL and the Ontario Junior League (OHL) will merge for one night, Thursday night, as the Gatineau Olympiques will face off against the Ottawa 67's in a game that will be counted in the standings in both leagues.
The duel to watch
HALIFAX @ GATINEAU
“The Halifax Mooseheads begin an important three-game journey against Quebec teams by facing the Olympiques de Gatineau, who have lost only one of their last ten games. »
▸ Wednesday evenings, 7 p.m., at the Slush Puppie Center