Lions head coach Éric Bélanger and vice-president and general manager Marc-André Bergeron conducted their media availability on May 9.When asked about the challenge of having to juggle so many players in and out of the line-up during his first season as Lions head coach, Bélanger emphasized the contribution of assistant coach Pascal Rhéaume. There was no doubt that Rhéaume did a terrific job teaching the head coach’s system to incoming players, and Bélanger described the situation as an ideal way to develop his own learning curve. “I have never been afraid of challenges,” Bélanger said, “and I have had several this season. There is one year left on my contract, and even if I go through a similar situation next year, I feel it will only make me better for the next stage of my career.”The head coach was especially satisfied to see several of his players sent up to the Laval Rocket this season. Always striving to help his players develop, he was delighted to see them perform in the AHL, even if it contributed to the high turnover on his own team.Bélanger also raved about the high energy level in Colisée Vidéotron, and he repeatedly praised the fans. “I feel the enthusiasm is there, and the fans were amazing throughout the year,” he said. “Compared to all the cities we played in on the road, we had – by far – the best atmosphere.” Bélanger said he has already begun preparations for next season and intends to do everything he can to bring a championship to Trois-Rivières.Lions vice-president and general manager Marc-André Bergeron echoed what was said by the players during their media availability: Although very proud of all that was accomplished during the team’s inaugural season, he was not entirely satisfied, as the primary objective was to win the last game of the playoffs and therefore the Kelly Cup. But given the ups and downs that were part of the 2021-22 season, Bergeron declared that he had taken a lot of positives from the team’s first year of existence.Bergeron stated repeatedly that it was essential for him to ice a team with a Quebec identity. He said he wanted to continue on this path in order to have a team that Quebecers would be able to quickly and easily identify with. And by giving homegrown players the opportunity to play in the ECHL, he said hopefully that would increase the number of Quebecers who would play in the AHL and perhaps even the NHL.Bergeron expects a busy summer, as the majority of the team’s players become free agents by June 17. But he wants to attain a sense of continuity in the line-up. “I have already submitted offers to several players who were part of our first season,” he said. “We’re hoping to reach an agreement with them so that they can be back with us next year.”Now one year older and one year wiser, Bergeron has a better grasp of life in the ECHL, especially in context of having gotten to know an impressive number of players. The VP / GM’s summer will be spent developing a roster of returning players combined with new faces to compensate for the anticipated departures of some players who may opt for new challenges.
Éric Bélanger and Marc-André Bergeron’s thoughts on the Lions’ inaugural season
Friday, May 20th
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