LILLEHAMMER – Benoit-Olivier Groulx is among the Canada’s leaders in the Youth Olympic Games men’s ice hockey tournament. If his name sounds familiar to you that’s no coincidence. His father Benoit Groulx led Canada to World Junior gold as the head coach just one year ago in Toronto.
Groulx Sr is now in his 11th season as head coach and GM of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques and in the same city Groulx Jr plays Midget AAA hockey with Gatineau Intrepide.
But if you think of a daddy as a pushy shadow coach behind the ice, you may well be mistaken in case of the Groulx family.
“My father has an outside influence on hockey for me. We don’t talk hockey when I’m with him,” the 16-year-old says, enjoying anything else when together with his father.
He even excludes playing for his father at Gatineau Olympiques when he’s ready to make the next step in his junior career despite the Olympiques being the team he has followed for so many years while his father was coaching there. But he prefers to stand on his own two feet rather than creating controversy.
“My dad doesn’t want me to be on his team and I don’t want to be on his team either, so we have a common goal not to play for each other,” he says.
Groulx can be drafted by a major junior team next June and he’s among the top candidates to be picked by a QMJHL team. Centring the first line here in Lillehammer and contributing four goals and six points in five games surely doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s an honour to wear a Canadian jersey. Since I have been three years old I wanted to play at the World Juniors, or the Olympic Games or the NHL. It’s a dream come true for me to be here,” he says.
Since starting as a three-year-old hockey has been his biggest passion and he hopes to be ready for the next step soon.
“Each hockey player wants to be in the NHL so that’s my dream. In June I have my draft so my next goal is to play major junior,” explains Groulx, who also has offers from American colleges.
He’s likely to make a team in the “Q”. Despite his 16 years he’s leading Gatineau Intrepide in scoring with 21 goals and 51 points in 41 games and is the best 2000-born scorer of the Quebec Midget AAA league.
In Lillehammer the 6’1” (185 cm) tall forward has successfully centred a line with fellow Quebecer Gabriel Fortier and Aidan Dudas.
Since the opening-day loss against Russia the Youth Olympic men’s tournament has been a success story for the Canadians with four consecutive wins including a 4-3 win in shootout in the semi-finals against Finland with Groulx both scoring the game-tying goal with 3:28 left as well as the game-winner in the shootout.
“It’s a very nice and fun experience here. I think we can take a little bit of everything and put it in a suitcase in the end and learn from everything,” says Groulx.
“To be on the ice here is a very nice moment. It will be awesome to play the gold medal game so I can’t wait to jump onto the ice.”
In the preliminary round the Canadians beat the United States 4-2 in a tight clash.
“We all dreamed about playing for gold since the tournament started. We’re very excited in the locker room about the final. We all have a common goal in this tournament and we all want to win the gold medal,” he says. “We need to stick to the game plan and everything is going to be alright.”
The gold medal game between the two North American rivals will be played at 15:00 local time (9am ET) and can be watched live here