Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault can blame lockout … for living in his parents’ basement
‘I think they both got a kick out of me living at home’
Alain Vigneault (2006 until the present) is the 16th head coach in the history of the Vancouver Canucks NHL franchise.
Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG files
VANCOUVER — This is not a victimless lockout.
The harsh economic consequences of the National Hockey League's labour war was evident to those with a keen eye in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, where spectacular fall foliage was juxtaposed for a few weeks this fall against the sad spectacle of a mighty man fallen.
Alain Vigneault — Jack Adams Award winner, winningest coach in Vancouver Canucks history, among the finest in his profession — was reduced to living in his parents' basement.
“A lot of people were saying: 'Boy, the lockout must really be affecting you money-wise if you have to go back and live with your parents,' ” the 51-year-old coach said before arriving back in Vancouver for a weekend blitz of community initiatives involving Canucks coaches and managers. “For a while, it was a running joke. I was doing some renovations on my home and I had to move back in with my parents.
“I wasn't supposed to be here. Training camp was going to start and I would be in Vancouver and the renovations would get done while I was away. Then the lockout appeared and I was here and had to move back in with my parents.”
Vigneault said Maurice and Loraine were happy to have their son back under their roof. He made his bed, put his toys away, helped with the chores.
“My mom is 79 and my dad is 77, so I think they both got a kick out of me living at home,” Vigneault laughed. “There was a little more activity in the house. They seemed to be pretty happy about it.
“I'm really not used to being home (during hockey season). I've been gone now six years in Vancouver and a year in Winnipeg and two years before that in PEI. I haven't really seen the leaves change colours in Gatineau. I haven't seen that in a while, although I'm not crazy about the cold we were getting in early November. People aren't used to seeing me around, and it's as big a shock to me as it is to them.”
Vigneault and his staff, scattered around the continent by the NHL owners' decision to shut down the league, is back together in Vancouver for a coaches' Town Hall Meeting Thursday night at the Langley Events Centre.
Associate coach Rick Bowness has flown in from his home base in Arizona. Assistants Newell Brown and Darryl Williams have travelled from off-season homes in California and Newfoundland, respectively, and goaltending coach Roland Melanson is back from New Brunswick.
They'll conduct practices for selected minor-hockey teams all day Sunday at Rogers Arena as part of the Canucks' Grassroots Hockey program. There will also be a visit to Children's Hospital and a dinner for the Special Olympics.
“Once hockey season starts, you spend an incredible amount of time with your staff,” Vigneault said. “As much as we try keeping ourselves busy (during the lockout), that daily competitiveness we get making sure our team is ready and players are ready — and those are all relationships you build — waiting every day for that to come back is a little bit challenging. On a scale of one to 10, I'm looking forward to this as a 10. I really miss my players, really miss the whole environment around the team.”
Like everyone else, Vigneault wishes the NHL was playing, but he especially misses the daily interaction with staff and players.
Personally, I miss Vigneault — his belly laughs during press conferences, candour and self-deprecating humour and the way he fumbles occasionally over his second language.
As Vigneault tried to explain how the Canucks have a legitimate chance to win a Stanley Cup if there's a season, he stumbled over the English adjective.
“Legit, lagit, how do you say it? (In French) legitime?”
There are a pile of NHL teams in the United States that are probably quite content with an autumn lockout, either because they'll lose less money not playing or because they struggle drawing fans and TV audiences against football in the fall.
The highly profitable and well-run Canucks, however, are losing money and a chance to take another run at the Stanley Cup as their window to do so with a roster of core players in their late 20s and early 30s begins to close.
If there is a partial season and a compressed schedule, it's unknown whether the Canucks' age will be a factor, and how their lack of players in European leagues will affect their readiness to play NHL games on short notice.
Coaching will be vitally important but, ironically, there will be less time for it between games.
“Every team is going to be in new territory as far as the compressed schedule,” Vigneault said. “But being where we are in Vancouver, it's always a lot more challenging than it is for teams out east.
“Every organization is going to need a tremendous amount of depth. You're going to need to play your bench. In situations where you get four games in six nights, you have to play all your people. That's the only way you can get by.
“If you play more than three games a week, then obviously practices will be shorter and there won't be as many, and you're going to have to do your teaching somewhere else. Everyone will have to adjust.”
Vigneault sounded excited just talking about it. He seemed to enjoy answering questions.
“I swear to God, I miss you guys,” he laughed when asked about the media. “I'm looking so forward to getting back and having one of those special pre-game press conferences with you guys. I can't wait to do that again.”
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