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David Desharnais, immortalized by the Sags: “No one would have thought he would achieve such success among the professionals”

David Desharnais, immortalized by the Sags: “No one would have thought he would achieve such success among the professionals”

When they drafted David Desharnais in the second round of the 2003 QMJHL draft, the Saguenéens knew they made a good move, but they certainly didn't suspect his jersey number. No. 15 will one day be retired by the organization after, in particular, assuming the role of first-line center for the Canadian for a period.

This is what will happen on Friday evening, as Desharnais will become the thirteenth immortal in the organization’s history.

In four seasons with the Sags, Desharnais collected 374 points in 262 regular season games as well as 43 points in 48 playoff games, before playing 524 games in the NHL followed by more than 200 games in Europe, in the KHL and Switzerland. . He particularly made his mark with the Canadiens, anchoring their first line for a period of time as well as signing a four-year contract that earned him $14 million.

Not bad for a player who was always viewed as too young.

David Desharnais proudly wears his Chicoutimi Saguenéens hat, a few days before the organization's retirement ceremony.

Photo by Stevens LeBlanc

The newly retired Desharnais is still struggling with the realization that his jersey will forever float in the heights of the Suggs House. But he remembers every moment he spent in the QMJHL.

“It goes so fast, Junior. You fight from beginning to end, and when you feel good, it's over and you have to move on to another challenge. But I remember every episode, unlike the pros where my memories are more vague. There, you're fighting for your life, from Save your salary and your place, while when you are young, you are with your friends, going to school, traveling by bus, and you are not yet competing with each other.” Newspaper In the last days.

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Jerome Mesonero certainly doesn't regret setting his sights on Descharnays with the 20th overall pick in the 2003 draft, while serving as chief scout for the Saguenaines.

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Whoever has the right to carry in the hockey game before the midfielder in the Lotbinière region is quickly familiar with “the house of the house in the rouge” when he develops in the rings at home and is able to join them soon. His team.

Then, once with the Commandeurs de Lévis at the AAA midget level, this positive bias was confirmed by scout Claude Poulin, assigned to the Quebec region on behalf of the Sags at the time.

“Every week, Claude would say to me: ‘Desharnais has something special.’” The recruiters used to leave a few minutes before the end of the game to avoid traffic jams in the parking lot, but Claude told me: “He never lets me leave!” said Mesonero. “The game never ends when he's out there,” he said, who now works as a scout for the Colorado Avalanche.

David Desharnais when he wore the colors of the Levis leaders.

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For his part, Desharnais told us that he expects to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round in 2003.

Mésonéro maintains that he would never have gone there because Sags, in particular, was held in very high esteem.

Difficult beginnings

Desharnais then arrived at training camp with high expectations placed on him. He was viewed as a player with the potential to become one of the team's offensive leaders in the long term.

After earning a spot with the team, he did not get the start he expected, as he totaled 11 points, including four goals, in his first 28 games. Then Richard Martel arrived to replace the fired coach, Rene Mattei.

“When I arrived in Chicoutimi, everyone told me I had a jewel in my hand,” the conservative MP said. However, he didn't have the numbers to prove it. I coached Alexandre Blais at Baie Comeau, who played with David in the midget position, but was drafted in the fifth round and had double his points. I was mixed up.”

Desharnais remembers what happened next well: “He passed each of the players one by one and when it was my turn he said to me: How many goals do you have? And Blais? [il en comptait 14, contre 4 pour Desharnais]“.”

Things then opened up for Desharnais, and Martel gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent, bringing him together with Maxime Bouclier and Stanislav Lasek. He finally finished the season with 40 points in his final 42 games.

“From that point on, the Sags were never the same team. When he was 17, he was our offensive engine, and as a coach, you know you're going to get a lot of coaching for three years. A player like David makes a better coach,” Martel adds. “.

Heartbreaking defeats

Led by Desharnais, among others, as well as Boisclair, Lascek and Marek Zagrapan, among others, the Sags would finish fourth in the QMJHL in 2004-05, then third the following season, tied with the Remparts de Québec and just one point away. to the Moncton Wildcats and first place.

However, both times, their journey in the playoffs ended abruptly.

“The first time, we lost to Sidney Crosby and Rimouski, and the next year, we were supposed to win it all but we lost to Gatineau that had Claude Giroux and David Creasy. Looking back, we didn’t lose to Two of Spades!”, recalls Al-Khaled. New from Sags.

David Desharnais, crying, after his last QMJHL game on March 28, 2007.

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Desharnais then continued to defy the odds, and made it to the NHL, against all odds.

“Everyone knew he was good, but no one doubted that he would have such success among the professionals,” says Richard Martel. Max Pacioretty started in the American Hockey League. He had amazing vision and, moreover, was respected by everyone. He gave something and the players felt it. “He's the guy who was there for the real hockey game.”

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The ceremony will be held on Friday evening, before the match against the Quebec Remparts.

David Desharnais in three questions

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Q: Do the bonds of friendship formed during your four years in Chicoutimi still exist today?

A: Yes, several. Francis Verrault Paul is one of them, he is my greatest friend. We arrived together and bonded quickly. Richard [Martel] He often pitted us against each other during training because he liked it when we wanted to rip each other's heads off (laughs). When I got to Montreal with the Canadiens, he was playing at McGill. We shared those moments together. In the NHL, you never know who you can trust, and having a friend who plays in the same city was great. We were able to share what we went through.

Q: You've faced a lot of competition in the NHL, especially with the Boston Bruins. Relatively speaking, was what happened with the Quebec Remparts similar?

a. certainly! Competition is competition. There were 15,000 people in the Coliseum when we came to Quebec and the Center Georges Vezina was packed when Patrick [Roy] The walls came down. It's been an amazing few years and I thank my opponents because hating them helps you do your best (laughs).

Q: Who has helped you the most behind the scenes?

A: My personal trainer Raymond Villette. I joined him after I was 17, and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have played where I did. He influenced me a lot and allowed me to train with players who were already professionals such as Patrice Bergeron, Francis Bouillon and Antoine Vermette. You taught me the discipline I have to have. Once I joined, my career moved to another level. The next year, I saw the difference.