Frédéric Brunet, hope born in the right nest
At 19, the Rimouski Océanic quarterback has made giant strides in recent months, so much so that he is now ranked 113th among North American skaters eligible for the next draft.
Being drafted would be an accomplishment, admits the 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) colossus. It’s a childhood dream to be drafted. If that happens, that’s a bonus. Otherwise, it’s not over. It would be a reward for all the hardships and pitfalls I had during my career. It’s just going to inspire me to give myself even more.
His value is on the rise, even though he was passed over last year in his first year of eligibility. He had still been invited to the Florida Panthers rookie camp.
Players drafted in their second year of eligibility are the exception rather than the rule, but they do exist. Some are even in their third year, this is the case, in particular, of Laval Rocket forward Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
I developed late and I entered the QMJHL only at 17 years old, says Brunet. Last year, in the first half of the season, I was not at my best. I’ve been on the upswing ever since.
Frédéric Brunet’s path to the QMJHL and the NHL draft was not smooth sailing, as it is for most players. With the difference that he was able to count on an optimal family environment to develop as an athlete.
Her father, Michel Brunet, participated in the 1998 Nagano Olympics in figure skating. It was there that he met Frédéric’s mother, Brigitte Gauthier, physiotherapist for the Canadian freestyle ski team.
Brigitte’s brother, the former freestyle skier Dominick, also participated in the Nagano Games, before becoming a coach, then spouse of Jennifer Heil, double Olympic medalist. Finally, Cédric, Frédéric’s three-year older brother, is a member of the national long track speed skating team and came very close to qualifying for the Beijing Games.
The team scouts are impressed by my surroundings, because not everyone is lucky enough to have top athletes who can guide them. For me it is a game changer to have grown up in such an environment and to have the chance to call my uncle or my aunt for advice. It guides me a lot.
Dominick Gauthier, co-founder of the organization B2ten, works with some of the best athletes and sports specialists in the country. He regularly chats with his nephew before games and feels he has what it takes to succeed.
There, it is perhaps the tiresome mononcle who speaks, but I admire his patience and his intelligence on the ice, explains Gauthier. Often, young people try to force things too much and become chickens on the ice. And Fred, it’s the other way around. He is a quiet leader in the team.
Most of our conversations relate to the mental aspect of sport, specifies Frédéric Brunet. He shares with me what other athletes have had to face during their journey. He reminds me to focus on the positive, the importance of clearing my head to be focused throughout the game and not to be distracted by a bad presence.
Seeing the Olympic journeys of his family members normalizes success for him, adds Dominick Gauthier. If he had to face Connor McDavid in a year or two, of course he would be a little impressed, but I’m sure he would approach the situation with the calm that another youngster would not necessarily have.
Drafted in the fourth round of the QMJHL draft by the Océanic in 2019, the guard finished last season as the top scorer among his team’s defensemen with 12 goals and 34 assists in 63 games.
A rather unusual progression for a player drafted so late.
The Medals, the Limo and the Vancouver Pool
Frédéric Brunet was only 6 years old during the Vancouver Games in 2010. He was there with his family, since his mother was a physiotherapist for the national freestyle ski team.
If, in 2010, he was especially impressed by the slide of the indoor swimming pool of the hotel where he resided, years later, a photo in a limousine with Jennifer Heil, silver medalist, and Alexandre Bilodeau, medalist of gold, is worth its weight in gold.
I remember it like it was yesterday, says Frédéric Brunet. Being in a limo with a multiple Olympic medalist aunt, you can’t forget that. It is clear that at 6 years old, I did not realize the magnitude of the moment. But looking back, it’s a big source of inspiration to be able to experience moments like that.
Their aunt always told them to dream big and put in the effort, because talent is not everything, explains Brigitte Gauthier, Frédéric’s mother. My boys realized early on that if they put in everything they had, even if it didn’t work out, at least they wouldn’t have any regrets.
In an environment imbued with extreme success, where at Christmas, inevitably, we talk about sport, the line can be thin between inspiration and undue pressure. Brigitte Gauthier insists on the fact that she and her spouse have always known how to make sense of things.
We were always aware of the entourage that the children had, but we never wanted them to feel pressure, she says. We just wanted to make it accessible to them. I think that rather than putting pressure on them, the people around them showed them that it was possible to have dreams and to achieve them.
Frédéric and his brother Cédric also created their chance, insists Michel Brunet. You can be a millionaire in life, but if you don’t know how to manage what you have earned, it can go wrong. Our two boys decided to take extraordinary loads and use them with the entourage they had.
If Frédéric is super mature on the ice, it’s not because he worked five hours a week with a mental trainer, but because he assimilated information in all the discussions he had with me. , his parents and other Olympians, like Mikaël Kingsbury, adds Dominick Gauthier. And since several members of the family went to the Olympics, the parents are not there for their sons to realize a dream that they did not know how to realize.
Fun in sports, and not just in hockey, has always been a cardinal value for the family. When Frédéric was playing bantam AAA, the family supported him uncompromisingly when he opted instead to play for his school’s junior team because he had lost his taste for playing.
I took a step back and went to play for a coach [Louis Cournoyer, NDLR] which I appreciated a lot and it gave me back the taste for playing hockey and bouncing back. My parents were supportive of my decision making sure I was aware of my decision.
Frédéric and his brother Cédric have always performed well because they love what they do, adds Brigitte Gauthier. Maybe if we didn’t come from the sports world, we might not have had the audacity to let him downgrade. We knew it wasn’t going to change anything on the other end. The world looked askance at us and told us that we were going to ruin our son’s career. But if my son didn’t have fun, he wouldn’t have continued to progress anyway.
Beneficial sibling rivalry
Dominick Gauthier, who has two young boys, hopes that his sons will one day have the same relationship and the same complicity as Frédéric and Cédric Brunet.
Cédric pushes him a lot, even though he opted for speed skating, says Gauthier. They are always there to support each other, but also to kid each other and push each other. It’s really beautiful to see.
When we were younger, we both wanted to be the best in whatever sport we played. And since he was older than me, I improved with giant steps, adds Frédéric. We often bickered, it was hell, the battle always took. Our relationship has completely changed, we call each other when we are far away and we still train together when we are both in Quebec.
Logically, with a former figure skater father and a speed skater brother, Frédéric Brunet’s skating ability is one of his main qualities along with his intelligence on the ice. He himself practiced speed skating younger, in addition to playing baseball.
I was born with skates in my feet, launches Frédéric Brunet. I’m a good skater, but I learn a lot watching my brother skate. I have no doubt that my brother will go to the Olympics with the efforts he puts in every day. He doesn’t need to be looked at to work hard and I think I’m a bit like him.
We come from the same family and we don’t stop, because we are still far from being satisfied. We will only be when we reach the highest level and we really feel that it will end up working for both.
The Brunet-Gauthier family, including my uncle Dominick, promises to be at the Bell Center in July, even if the repechage of son is not a guarantee. There will also be the boarding family with whom Frédéric lives in Rimouski.
Even if we had had the chance to choose the family ourselves, we could not have had a better time, confides Brigitte Gauthier. They had a big part to play in his success, because the last two years have been full of obstacles.
As the African proverb says, it takes a whole village to raise a child.
Frédéric Brunet, he had an Olympic village.
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