The wait is over and the games will begin. This Fall, local hockey fans will finally see the blue ‘R’ whizz by on ice – the symbol of Laval’s professional team making its home here in the newly constructed Place Bell. With an action-packed season about to begin, the President of Place Bell, Vincent Lucier, tells us more about the long-awaited arrival of Le Rocket de Laval.

The entire project is a grand undertaking for the city of Laval, and the source of much pride for the entire team of Place Bell organizers, of which Lucier is a member. A big fan of hockey himself, (playing, watching and working in the field), the arrival of Le Rocket de Laval has Lucier coming full circle from the early days of working at the ticket counter for the Canadiens de Montréal while he was a student. “I loved the Canadiens de Montréal at that time and I still love them,” says Lucier. “The Molson Center had just opened in 1996 and a classmate of mine convinced me to apply.”

Lucier slowly climbed the ladder over the years and in 2011, became Vice-President of Sales. Today, he is President of Place Bell and has been very implicated in bringing the newly-named team and the Place Bell project to Laval.

Initially, the club-école des Canadiens was in Ontario; the team was known under the name Hamilton Bulldogs. There had always been the wish to bring the team closer to home. “Our fans told us what they wanted. The really dedicated fans would follow the team at every turn, but it made it difficult for the occasional fan to keep up, because the team was so far,” says Lucier. Once Laval announced the Place Bell amphitheatre project, the idea of transferring the team resurfaced. “It was an ideal moment for us to move our team closer. We started the process right away, knowing that Place Bell was going to be constructed,” explains Lucier.

For many reasons, the construction of Place Bell experienced delays. The team temporarily moved to Newfoundland and became the St-John Icecaps while waiting for their future home in Laval to be ready to welcome them.

Lucier notes that Le Rocket de Laval was not just a simple transfer. Even though all the players, trainers, therapists and managers had to be moved, it was all the logistics surrounding the marketing and general operations of the team before their arrival that was the biggest challenge. “Like any other business that is just starting out, there isn’t just one challenge, there are dozens,” says Lucier. “You basically have to redo everything. We had to hire all the rest of the staff for marketing, administration, sales, concessions and operations,” adds Lucier.

Besides having to start over on the operations side of things, the team’s identity also had to be forged – and it needed to be one that Lavallers could become attached to. It needed a new name: Le Rocket de Laval. For hockey fans and the general public, the ‘Rocket’ is not an unfamiliar name. It’s a respectful nod to NHL legend Maurice Richard. “Everyone knows who Maurice Richard is. I personally grew up hearing my father sing his praises – he was his favourite player,” recalls Lucier.

Choosing the team’s new name was not taken lightly. A public contest was organized and no less than 50 000 people participated in the contest, with more than 800 team names put forth. “When we announced the contest, it was important for us to implicate the public from day one. It was the first gesture we offered the fans – to make them a part of the process,” says Lucier. For Lucier, the fact that the winning moniker bears the name of his father’s favourite hockey player is a happy and nostalgic coincidence.

Besides the obvious reference to the Canadiens de Montréal, the new team name is a solid reflection of the spirit of Le Rocket de Laval. Determination, courage and skill…values that encompassed Maurice Richard and will now be practiced proudly by Laval’s own Le Rocket de Laval.

With the season about to start, Lucier hopes that the team’s presence will create a sense of belonging and pride for Lavallers. “We’re talking about the Le Rocket de Laval, not the Rocket des Canadiens or the Rocket de Montréal,” stresses Lucier. “It’s pretty powerful for a city to have the chance to welcome a professional team. Laval is now part of a privileged circle and I hope the citizens will be proud of their team.”