When Montreal hits the showers, it brings Laval flowers

The Laval Rocket finds themselves deep in their playoff run for the Calder Cup

The post-game celebrations shared between Laval players, after a win Caroline Marsh
Sparkling fireworks illuminate the boisterous crowd at the Bell Centre Caroline March
A pre-game light show to set the scene for a stellar night of hockey Caroline Marsh

It goes without saying, the Habs 2021-22 season was a bust. While Montreal would’ve loved to see the cup, it might be our neighbors across the bridge who see one instead.

There’s always been this underlying tension between Montreal and Laval. One’s Canada’s cultural capital, and the other thinks they’re part of Canada’s cultural capital. All jokes aside, Laval’s not that bad – they have right on red and a winning hockey team.

Let’s talk about the American Hockey League, baby. The Laval Rocket are like the Montreal Canadiens’ little brother, or as sports analysts like to say, ‘top affiliate.’ The franchises are quite intertwined, so you’ll often see players from the minors called up to the majors to fill in for ill or injured ones. And there’s one in particular that comes to mind, Cayden Primeau. 

With superstar goalie Carey Price out of the game as he recovers from extensive knee surgery, Primeau had some pretty big gloves to fill for the Montreal Canadiens. Despite both knowing their way around the net and sharing the same initials, Primeau’s seven losses and only one win suggest he still has a ways to go before he’s ready to play for the big leagues.

Primeau stands sturdy in anticipation of a star-quality performance Caroline Marsh

However, that’s the thing – he was way out of his league, pun intended. Still, he took on an incredible opportunity in stride. Imagine practicing with the pros and then coming home with the kind of experience most of your adversaries in the AHL lack. To have even won a single game in the NHL is a massive victory, even if it was against the second worst team in the Atlantic Division, the Ottawa Senators. 

Primeau skated out of his comfort zone and was made better for it – by extension, so was his team. When he rejoined the Rocket, his fresh sense of confidence beamed as he boasted new stats to the tune of only four losses and nine wins through the Calder Cup playoffs.

He wasn’t the only Rocket player to try his stick in the NHL – Sami Niku, Alex Belzile, Cedric Paquette, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard also made their way from Place Bell to Centre Bell this past season. Like Primeau, they returned to Laval with some new tricks up their jersey sleeves. With that, they crushed their postseason opponents all the way to the AHL final.

Even though it’s the Rocket’s first time vying for the cup, they’ve already had a clean sweep over the Rochester Americans. The team, alongside their adoring fans, hope they’ll keep up their momentum as they continue to face the Springfield Thunderbirds in the Eastern Conference finals. With the series tied, the Rocket go into Game 7, Wednesday, June 15th at 7:05pm EDT – it’ll surely be one to watch!

Our very own photojournalist Caroline Marsh had the chance to attend one of the Rocket’s games, where she interviewed hockey fan William St-Aubin about his love of the game. He said, “[you watch the Rockets because] you wanna see the recruits. You wanna see the young kids play and see what they can be.”

“[you watch the Rockets because] you wanna see the recruits. You wanna see the young kids play and see what they can be.” — William St-Aubin. Laval hockey fan

In that sense, there’s something really special about the AHL, that you can spot young talent before they ‘make it.’ It’s like when your favorite emerging artist plays in a small underground bar, and then a few years later, gets the main stage of a popular music festival – it’s that feeling of turning to your friend and saying, ‘I saw them first.’

Rocket coach, Jean-François Houle, said that “the further you go on in the Calder Cup playoffs, the more teams in the NHL will be looking at you, and that’s a better opportunity for your future.” 

To watch the AHL is to watch the pool of potential that’ll one day spill over into the NHL. With their impressive win streak and shot at a cup, maybe next season more talented players will be called up. If the sky’s the limit, then it’s a good thing we have the Rocket. 

Our city finally has a winning team to watch, even if it’s not really ours.