Feel Like a Pro—Even If You Don’t Play Like One

Former Concordia Student Creates the Ultimate Adult Hockey League

  • Photo Shaun Michaud

Over the years, Jean-François DesBois was involved in all kinds of senior hockey leagues—the problem was he could never find one that really suited him.

Looking for a well-organized league where camaraderie was ubiquitous, DesBois decided last year that he would create his own league, where average players would feel like pros. He named it La Ligue Fédérale des As; a name that he has put together after watching one of his favourite movies, Slap Shot.

The LFA was born out of a pick-up hockey association that DesBois previously ran for 15 years, the Hockey Brotherhood. Players from the Brotherhood decided to collaborate with DesBois and joined the LFA. Today, the LFA consists of four teams that compete every Saturday afternoon at the Collège Notre-Dame Arena in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

With over 200 players including goaltenders on his substitute list, DesBois is looking to add two more teams to the league next season.

Only last June, the LFA’s present viability and success was just a dream for DesBois, who had to start everything from scratch.

“It all started last summer when I started looking for sponsors and tried to convince them to invest into my project,” said DesBois, who studied film animation at Concordia in the late ‘80s.

“But first of all, I had to find an arena that would give us ice time because without it, there’s no league.”

DesBois invested not only his money but also most of his time into the LFA, making the risky decision to leave his full-time job and dedicate himself to his new project.

“For 15 years I worked in the film industry, but at one point I had enough of it,” said DesBois.

“There were too many liars in the television and film industry, many double-faced people and it was all about money. I decided to leave that behind and dedicate myself to something I liked—hockey.”

DesBois hasn’t looked back since then, and hasn’t had much reason to. DesBois received support from many Montreal bars and restaurants for his league, even inking a deal with a beer company and a hockey equipment store, much to the delight of league members.

Photo Shaun Michaud (click to enlarge)

“I think the reason why the LFA has more success than other garage leagues is that I work on it almost 70 hours a week, and try to make everything work and [be] well-organized,” he said.

“Other garage leagues are managed by people who have a daytime job and probably have families and kids. Not me.”

What DesBois is most proud of is the league’s website, lfahockey.com, where players can find everything from their team’s schedule to individual and team statistics and game-play photos.

“[DesBois] has a lot of guts; he believes in his ideas and works extremely hard to make them a reality,” said graphic designer Jeremy Lancelin, who worked with DesBois to create the league’s website.

“If he keeps the pace, the LFA will be the number one garage league in Quebec in the next 10 years.”

The regular season is coming to an end for the LFA, and when it does each team will have a shot at winning the championship trophy. The league’s final will be held April 26 at the Collège Notre-Dame Arena, and for the occasion, DesBois has decided to charge a $5 entry fee and will donate all proceeds from the game to the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation.

“When I created the league, one of my goals was to contribute to society by giving back,” said DesBois. “Hockey is and always will be a huge social factor in Quebec.”

The Brotherhood

DesBois says he’s looking for as many players as possible, preferably between the ages of 20 and 50, to expand his league to eight teams in the future. At the beginning of next season, new players will be evaluated during exhibition games by a committee DesBois has put together.

Photo Jean-François DesBois (click to enlarge)

Following the evaluations, each player will be given a score between one and 10 to determine which team the player will be placed on. That way, DesBois says, the teams will be as balanced as possible.

DesBois also created another committee to make sure that dirty players are penalized, if not banned entirely from the league.

“The spirit of the brotherhood is one of fair play, where there are no fights and as little arguing as possible,” DesBois said.

“But it’s not the J.F. DesBois show. There’s one player from each team on the discipline committee and they decide who should be suspended or not.”

DesBois wants to make sure that the LFA is a league where camaraderie reigns and where all players help each other.

In order to establish that feeling of community, DesBois has created a list with the contact information of all the current players, their jobs, and a car-pooling list so that if someone needs something, they know who to get in touch with.

“I knew that [DesBois] had big plans for his league but I can’t believe he’s taking it that far. He put a lot of work into it and it shows,” said Laurent Quesnel, an LFA member and graduate from Concordia’s film production program.

“We welcome all new players with open arms,” Quesnel said.

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