The Trois-Rivieres Lions have found their first head coach in franchise history, as they officially appointed Eric Belanger to the job as bench boss on Tuesday afternoon. The terms of his contract were not made available to the public. As widely reported in the last 48 hours, Belanger was one of three finalists, along with Bruce Richardson and Marc-Andre Dumont.
Belanger takes the reins of the Lions after spending two seasons with Chevaliers de Lévis. He did so in the LHMAAAQ, Quebec’s Midget AAA Hockey League. With the first piece of the puzzle now in place, the Lions have yet to fill out their coaching staff. Led by GM Marc-Andre Bergeron, the Lions can begin signing players when free agency commences on Friday, July 9th.
Speaking at Le Nouveau Colisée, Belanger was ecstatic for the start of his next chapter. “It’s an honour for me to make history by becoming the first head coach in their (Lions de Trois-Rivieres) history,” he said to the media. “I am here with the intention to win with as many Quebecois as possible.”
Bringing to the Lions some experience, Belanger said that his roster will quickly adjust to his leadership style. “My players will know on which foot they will dance in all situations. I am very demanding, but [just] with my players. I want a team which, even if we are going to have a lot of movement, will be united tight.”
Elaborating on his method of teaching, Belanger said that it compares to his mentality as a player. “I’m a coach a bit like the player I was, in the sense where I always had to work to keep my place [in the NHL].” Touching on his transition to the bench, Belanger said he understands what it is these young men compete through. “I [played] almost 1000 professional games, so [I] went through all the ranges of emotions.”
Now, on the other side as a coach, the native of Sherbrooke, Quebec is thrilled to take another step forward. “Thanks to the Chevaliers AAA organization for their confidence during the last two seasons. Very happy to start a new challenge with the Trois-Rivieres Lions.”
Belanger Lands First Professional Coaching Gig
Eric Belanger played 12 NHL seasons, which he spent with seven teams, compiling 820 contests. Between the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes, the centreman tallied 338 points, scoring 138 goals, while adding 220 assists. Over the course of his career, Belanger played 41 Stanley Cup Playoff games, however, did not experience a championship winning season.
Currently based in Lac-Beauport, Quebec, Belanger most recently served as an NHL analyst on RDS. Prior to joining Chevaliers de Lévis, Belanger spent two years coaching with the Quebec Typhon Midget Espoir in the QMEAA. Having coached kids aged 15-17, the Lions are expected to be a young team, which will help him adjust to his new duties at the pro level. Working in a predominately French-speaking city, it was important that they made the right hire, naming one of their own, which is a huge deal for the Lions.
“It was a very long hiring process, as we wanted to make sure we met everyone,” said GM Marc-Andre Bergeron. “It was also necessary to give the opportunity to all interested candidates to submit their application. We wanted to go around the garden to see all the possibilities, which we did,” he stated.
Now, getting right down to business, the team’s selected candidate is looking forward to getting started. “To be able to be associated with this organization for its beginnings and to make the leap to the professionals means that my motivation is great,” the 43-year-old said. “I can’t wait to build the team and help Marc-André in this process so that fans have the right to a product they can identify with.”