Le National de Joliette continues
to run on all cylinders in la Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec and the Canadian Junior
'A' Hockey League.
Defending champion Joliette is unbeaten in 10 games this season, with a 9-0-1 record,
and has compiled an impressive .762 winning percentage since the CJAHL began in 1993.
Le National has 190 wins, 56 losses and 10 ties to easily lead CJAHL teams in winning
percentage since the 1993-94 season.
Stability is certainly a key to Joliette's success. Head coach Jacques Laporte is in
his eighth season with the team and assistant coach Eric Daoust has rejoined his former
team after playing in the East Coast Hockey League.
"We have a tradition," said Laporte. "We want to win."
He recognizes that a solid franchise begins with strong administration. President
Richard Lafond leads a group of seven administrators who make Laporte's job easier.
"This is probably our best start in eight years," said Laporte, who has 12
returning players, eight graduates of Quebec's strong midget AAA league and two players
from midget AA.
He estimates that he watches about 40 league games per season, with thoughts of
improving his roster through trades.
"Year after year we have a lot of 17-year-olds," he said. "We usually
obtain three or four older players in trades."
Laporte and his staff also believe in recruiting throughout the province.
"We were probably the first team to have players from around Quebec," he
said, adding players have been attracted to Joliette from such cities as Quebec City,
Hull, Chicoutimi and Drummondville.
He is pleased because seven players in the last five years have gone to National
Collegiate Athletic Association schools on scholarships. Others, such as 1995 Centennial
Cup all-star defenceman Luc Bilodeau, advanced to the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic
Union, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and minor professional leagues.
Bilodeau was voted the CIAU's outstanding rookie with the Universite du Quebec a
Mario Turcotte is Joliette's leading scorer this season, with 10 goals and 24 points in
nine games through Oct. 1. Teammates Dominic Cote, Martin Cote and Mario Laflamme are also
among the league's top 20 scorers.
Goalie Eric Desjardins has been another star for Le National. Desjardins had a 2.87
goals against average, .921 saves percentage and 8-0 won-lost record in 460 minutes
through Oct. 1.
Laporte is optimistic that Joliette can repeat as champion and qualify for the Fred
Page Cup tournament in April. That tournament between the champions of the LHJAAAQ,
Maritime Junior A Hockey League and Central Junior Hockey League will determine one of
five representatives for the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship in Yorkton,
Sask., in May.