While university sports are often an athlete’s last taste of competition, for Ryerson men’s hockey team goalie Adam Courchaine, the Rams are just a small chapter in his current hockey saga.
A Boston Bruins signee back in 2007, Courchaine brings an impressive resume to the Rams: He spent three years in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), two seasons in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) where he won a Kelly Cup league championship with the Alaska Aces, and made seven appearances in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s affiliate team.
But all it took was a quick call from his good friend, Rams defenceman Brian Birkhoff, to get Courchaine, 24, to come play for Ryerson.
To be eligible to play with the Rams, however, Courchaine was forced to take an entire year off from playing professional hockey.
The year gave him time to reflect on himself, but after practising and playing consistently for six years, the anticipation to get back on the ice was itching away at him.
“You know that you can’t spend that much time away from it,” said Courchaine. “There was a time when you say sure, I can take some time away from hockey, but eventually enough is enough,” the netminder says. “You can’t do it anymore.”
Coach Graham Wise understands the experience Courchaine brings, but he will still have to earn the starting job.
Competition, of course, is a good dilemma for any coach to have, and Wise now has Troy Passingham, Steve Gleeson and Courchaine all pushing one another, not just to help the team, but also to keep their jobs.
Becoming a goaltender in the NHL was always a dream for Courchaine, now a general arts student at Ryerson, but he believes that being signed by the Bruins happened too soon; he felt he still had lots to learn as a pro hockey player and as a person.
“I learned how professional guys act. It’s their full-time job as hockey players. I just used to think that hockey was about hockey,” said Courchaine, a Kanata, Ont., native. “But it’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it was something those guys loved.”
Courchaine, however, didn’t see it the same way.
“I’ve always been more of a late bloomer so I was feeling that maybe I’m not 100 per cent ready for this,” he says. “Although, I’ve been told as a goaltender that you’re looked on when you’re a little older. They want you when you’re more mature. I’ve looked at it and I know I have a few more years to develop myself as a player and a person.”
But it was the goalie’s enthusiasm and passion to get back in the game that impressed Wise. He understands that Courchaine gives his team experience between the pipes. But he says what impresses him more is his goalie’s desire to have a life outside of hockey.
“It’s another chapter in his life. He’s not sitting there like ‘Woe is me,’ he’s looking at it like here’s a great opportunity to play two more years of hockey and get an education,” said Wise.
“Before, he was playing professional hockey and not doing too much with school so now he’s got hockey and working towards a degree (at the same time).”
Courchaine has high expectations for himself and hopes to not only help the Rams get past the first round of the playoffs, but win a championship during his tenure.
But he’s not letting the move from playing professional hockey to OUA hockey affect the long-term outlook he has for himself.
“I like the fact that I can come here and be the guy for a couple years, be a part of something and then move on in my hockey and my life.”