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Laval Rocket captain Alex Belzile aims to lead by example

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“It’s the Montreal Canadiens organization,” said the 31-year-old career minor league player. “It’s a big deal. It’s something you’re proud of.”

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Being among the last players off the ice after practice won’t necessarily correlate with becoming team captain, but in Alex Belzile’s case, it didn’t hurt.

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“I knew I was in on it,” said Belzile, named Laval Rocket captain last week, after Monday’s practice at Place Bell. “I’ve been here for four years and I’ve always had an impact on the team. I am a sociable and positive guy and I knew it would be a good choice. I didn’t know it would be me, though maybe I anticipated it a bit. But it was not my decision and it could have (gone to) a lot of guys.

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“This is great news and I feel honoured,” added the 31-year-old career minor leaguer. “It’s the organization of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a big problem. It’s something you’re proud of and, of course, you want to lead by example. It’s about your body language, your demeanor and your presentation at the rink.

Belzile, a 6-foot, 197-pound center in his fifth season with the organization, was named Rocket captain by the coaching staff and replaces Xavier Ouellet, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins but remains in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Gabriel Bourque and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard have been named alternate captains.

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Head coach Jean-Francois Houle said the decision came naturally.

“He’s good with young players and talks a lot, trying to help as much as he can,” Houle said. “The way he had to fight to make the NHL. He’s a guy with a lot of experience who’s been through a lot. I think players can identify with him quite easily.

“Alex is a guy who competes extremely hard on the ice and knows the game well. He loves to teach and will really help the younger ones, teaching them not just the game, but the values ​​of life.

Belzile, who played junior in Rimouski, hasn’t been a team captain since his midget days but has persevered over the past decade as a pro. He played for five East Coast clubs as well as a short stint with Hamilton – the forerunner of Laval – before becoming a full-time AHL player in 2016 with San Antonio. He signed with the Rocket as a free agent in 2018 and has spent the majority of his time with the Canadiens affiliate.

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  1. Alex Belzile, 31, is the third captain of the Laval Rocket, founded in 2016.

    Laval Rocket names Alex Belzile captain

  2. New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson plays the puck as Montreal Canadiens forward Jan Mysak defends during the third period at the Bell Center in Montreal on September 26, 2022.

    Laval Rocket rookie forward Jan Mysak not fazed by high expectations

  3. Jake Evans (left) and Alex Belzile of the Canadiens celebrate after setting up teammate Joel Armia for a second-period goal in a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs of the NHL at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

    Alex Belzile’s journey with the Canadiens is an inspiring story

Belzile, however, played 13 regular season games with Montreal as well as six in the 2020 playoffs and had two assists in total. His skating and lack of speed held him back, Houle and Belzile said.

“At first, it was my skating, 100%, says the native of St-Éloi. “I’ve never been a fast guy, although I’ve improved a lot and worked hard. I was one of the slowest on every team. Now I’m not the fastest, but I’m in the group. I know my game, my strengths — passion, intensity and perseverance — and my weaknesses.

Belzile participated in the Canadiens’ camp this season before being reassigned. He came in with no expectations, just hoping to make the most of his opportunity and show management that he could play at the NHL level. He has a two-way contract and could be recalled if Montreal were to get injured.

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In the meantime, Belzile hopes to leave his mark on the organization as long as he remains captain. He swore he wouldn’t change his game or try to become something he’s not, while admitting he can get overly emotional on occasion.

“In life, you can say what you want; that’s how you say it,” Belzile said. “I try to be positive. You don’t have to shout. Get your message across the right way. Everyone is different and you are like a teacher. If the message is the same for all 25 students, you won’t reach them all.

The Rocket started their season with two losses, including one in overtime, to Belleville. Houle wants players to pay more attention to detail in the future. “We need to be more disciplined,” he said.

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