BostonBruins.com — In hockey, it's not unusual for special players' names and numbers to be raised to the rafters after a successful run with a franchise.
Coaches? Well, that certainly doesn't happen as often, but it's exactly the how the Gatineau Olympics feted Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien on Wednesday night.
Julien coached the the Olympiques to the 1997 President and Memorial Cups in just his first season as the Head Coach, and the Junior team saw fit to honor the B's bench boss by raising his name to the rafters.
"It was very special because again, this is where I grew up," said Julien, who hails from nearby Blind River, Ontario. "I was privileged enough and lucky enough to coach right in my area.
"To have my direct family there, direct family; mother, father, brother, sister were there. A lot aunts, uncles and friends were there. I probably had over 60 guests there last night—it was great because it allowed that many people to come and support me.
"It was certainly great to reminisce about the people that you worked with," continued Julien. "Most of them were still around, so it was very familiar for me to chat with these guys, and some of them who are not with us anymore, and certainly had a thought for them."
And the Olympiques obviously had a thought for the Ottawa-area native who led them to Junior hockey's promised land 15 years ago.
"I spent six years there, and two of them were as an assistant coach, four as a head coach," said Julien, who earned a 141-109-16 record with the Olympiques. "The general manager that had the most impact on my career was the general manager I had there, by the name of Charlie Henry.
"Charlie [helped] mold me the right way, gave me a chance to learn the league and the coaching ranks, because I had just finished playing [professionally] at that time. That’s why I was an assistant for a couple of years.
"When he felt I was ready, I was able to get the head coaching job there," continued Julien. "Luckily enough, it was the year we were hosting the Memorial Cup, and we built ourselves a pretty good team.
"I owe a lot to him as far as having an influence on my coaching career."
Gatineau obviously owes Julien for a very bright spot in their history, but it was "CJ" who was humbled when his banner was raised to the roof.
"It was an emotional night," was how Julien described his feelings. "You get there and you think you’re okay, but once you get on the ice, and speak, and you realize the people—not just one, but many people that impacted your life and your career, whether it’s your parents from a young age on who gave you directions and supported, to people that helped you out, whether they helped you cover mistakes or helped you prevent mistakes—that really helped you out along the way.
"Right above me was a guy by the name of [former Bruins and Olympiques Head Coach] Pat Burns. I’ve had a lot of respect for Pat, and I really enjoyed his tutelage along the way as well. To have the honor to have my name next to his was pretty emotional too.
"We had some scouts there, a couple of them, that aren’t with us anymore that I had a blast with. Those were all things that came back to my mind, I guess, and that’s what was so touching about that night; the memories."
But it was some of those same memories that helped Julien lead Boston to hockey's ultimate prize - the Stanley Cup.
"There was an experience that I had to use in Boston the year we won the Stanley Cup because of the experience I had at the Memorial Cup. We had a 5-0 lead after the first, I think 6-1 after two periods against Leftbridge, and this was during the round-robbin. We ended up losing 7-6 in overtime; they came back in the third," said Julien. "It was such a devastating loss, and how the guys were after the game, and how we as coaches were just shaking our heads, and saying, ‘What happened here?’
"I spent the night really thinking about how I would approach the next day. Without going into details, when we lost our second game to Montreal on home ice [in the spring of 2011], I kind of used that experience to go into the room, and bring the guys back together.
"Had I not been through that with the Junior team, I don’t know if I would have handled it the same way in Boston," he said.
And it was how Coach Julien handled those tough moments which inevitably caught the eye of the Bruins brass.
"The one thing that I know that really helped me along the way in Boston is the fact that Peter Chiarelli was in the area when I was coaching there," said Julien of the B's General Manager. "I know he followed me closely back in those days, and certainly I would have to think that had a bit of an impact on him having knowledge on my coaching.
"Those are all things that happened in Junior hockey that people maybe don’t realize, but they serve you well down the road."
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