How far can we live from professional hockey – or do we want to? Every minor league player always asks themselves questions at one point or another.
Alexis has just been gravel. And when he was faced with the unknown about his future, he responded quickly enough to answer most clearly. “There’s no point in doing this for the rest of my life.”
Recently released in the ECHL by Allen Americans, the 21-year-old goaltender will begin a new chapter in his life and career in the next few days. Less than two months after walking shoulder to shoulder with the Canadiens players at the team’s training camp, he will wear a new uniform, the Patriots de l’Université du Québec Trois-Rivires (UQTR).
To say that the past few weeks have been busy for the Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, is an understatement. Invited to the Canadian rookie camp on a trial contract in mid-September, he later attended the main camp – “in the best shape of my life,” he said.
Two weeks later, he reported to the American League in hopes of signing the Laval Rocket again to a contract. However, the workforce in front of the net was already full not only in this team, but also in the branch of the Lions of Trois-Rivires in the ECHL. Disappointment was intensifying for anyone wishing to play in Quebec for the first time since Bantam Rank.
Then came the call from the Americans. Allen is moving to Texas, hoping to stay there until Christmas. “After that, we’ll see,” he said to himself.
The experiment lasted only three weeks. The semi-circle was crowded due to the unexpected return of the club’s first goalkeeper, Antoine Bibeau. And it was the gravel that got hit. Back to square one, then.
With the ECHL operating under a weekly wage limit, some players can quickly become nomads. And Quebecer didn’t want that kind of life.
“You can be dropped or traded anytime, there’s no consistency,” he said over the phone. It’s not an easy league, it’s very open. I told myself: there is no point in doing this all my life. Go and study, spend three or four years with the patriots. ,
Stopping your dream of becoming a professional hockey player is certainly not a decision that Alexis Gravel has taken with a happy heart. However, he turned to varsity hockey with great enthusiasm.
Her sister is already studying in UQTR. His father, François Gravel, a goalkeeper and ex-Canadian third-round pick in 1987, spent a season in France, Germany (where Alexis was born) and Italy before moving to Europe for a career.
Academically, at first, Alexis got a taste of the university in Halifax, where she had the status of a free student. Describing himself as a student who has to work hard to get good grades, he will now pursue a bachelor’s degree in administration.
In terms of hockey, he will be introduced to a caliber that apparently took him by surprise when he attended the Pats’ first local game last Sunday. “I couldn’t believe how good hockey was! He screams.
The boys are all old juniors. It’s a shame we don’t talk about it more.
Actually, the flirting between Gravel and the Patriots started during the summer. He had gone to visit the campus and sports facilities. UQTR was his “Plan A”… if he played in the college league. Because his original plan was to play for the A pros. What didn’t happen, but what could always happen later, you never know. “I’m going to be a better goalkeeper at 24-25 than at 21,” he predicts.
It was also a happy concurrence of circumstances that led to a vacancy at Trois-Rivires, as Zachary Boutillier moved to the other side finding a full-time job at the ECHL.
On a personal level, after all, Alexis has a sense of gravel putting her suitcase down. The first years of his life he spent in Europe based on his father’s career. After returning to Quebec for a few years, this time it was his mother’s work that inspired him to play for the Mississauga Senators in Ontario. He then played his entire junior career in Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, he also attended two training camps for the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that drafted him in the sixth round in 2018 but with whom he never signed a contract.
In Mauritius he will live close to his sister, his parents and his grandparents. “I realize how positive it is. I am really happy,” he says.
“I’m excited to start! », he adds feverishly.
Where to stay in Trois-Rivires
Patriots head coach Marc-tienne Hubert confirmed it: their new player is excited. He will join his teammates in the next few days.
In fact, gravel is far from being the first in its position. For 10 or 15 years, says Hubert, studies have become more important among young hockey players. “People have this openness, wanting to graduate first while continuing to progress toward professional rank. It has evolved, and so has the caliber of the league. It helps people make up their minds.”
Despite the despair of a dream that is falling apart, he has never seen a player come in with his head between his legs, he says. “We don’t want people who end up here by default.”
Alexis Gravel is also clear: Wearing a Patriots jersey is no consolation prize. An NHL admissions contract may set him back, but nothing is on the radar. Until further notice, he is a student-athlete.
I will receive a two-pronged offer from the American League which I will not accept.
At Trois-Rivières, he will share the net with Tristan Cté-Cazenave. He does not yet know what workload awaits him. To be honest, he doesn’t care much.
“When they trap me, it will be up to me to keep it. It works like this. ,
The Patriots will play their next game on Friday when they host the University of Ottawa Gee-Geiss.
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