Former Tiger joins McGill
Alex Blanchard couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present last December.
The 20-year-old Ridley College graduate was having strong final season of junior with the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League when he took a call during the Christmas holidays that changed his life.
On the other end of the line was McGill Redbirds men’s hockey coach and Thorold native Dave Urquhart making Blanchard an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I got a call saying there was a spot to go in right away,” Blanchard said. “It was extremely lucky on that front and a dream come true to go there a little bit early and play with my brother and get ahead of things for the upcoming season.”
Blanchard’s older brother and Ridley grad Max Blanchard was in his first season with the team and tipped off his sibling something could be in the works.
“It kind of came out of the blue. I got a heads up from my brother that it could be a possibility but when I talked to coach Urquhart over the phone I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” Alex Blanchard said. “I was trying to get to McGill for this year, I wasn’t expecting to get in this season.
“It was such a blessing to be there.”
Alex Blanchard, who accumulated 10 goals and 27 points with the Bruins and played a key role for the club on defence, was pleased to discover he wasn’t being added to McGill’s roster just to fill out a spot, despite being only 19 at the time.
“I was playing quite a bit, a lot more than I expected. Pretty much every game and got some good ice. I’m very fortunate and thankful for that,” he said.
Alex Blanchard feels getting his feet wet last season will give him an advantage this year.
“In terms of hockey and academically, that was very important,” he said. “I got to experience how to manage a full course load and play hockey at the same time. It gave me a little bit more experience going into the summer. Now I know areas that I need to train for hockey and how to prepare for the season. I think it’s going give me another step forward and help a lot.”
Alex Blanchard, who is majoring in business, also played 39 games with the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was blown away with the level of play at the Canadian university level.
“It’s very underrated hockey. It’s one of the top levels of hockey out there,” he said. “Playing in the CHL it’s another level above. There are a lot of CHL graduates. It’s older. It’s men and they’re a lot older and stronger.
“It’s really, really high level hockey.”
He also feels blessed to play with his brother, who had an outstanding freshman season with five goals and 12 points from the blueline.
“He’s got good advice and it wasn’t only him. There are a lot of veterans on the team who were welcoming and but it’s nice and very comforting to be with Max as well,” Alex Blanchard said.
Alex Blanchard captained the Tigers for two seasons and remains appreciative for his experiences at Ridley.
“Ridley prepares students for all aspects of life,” he said. “You learn how to manage a full course load while playing sports. You’re on campus and responsible for a lot of your own stuff.
“I’m grateful for the experience and if it wasn’t for Ridley, it would be much more difficult to go through things at university. I don’t think I would be where I am today without Ridley.”
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