ILLUSTRATIONS - THEO LAMAR
The fan base of the Montreal Canadiens takes their homegrown players seriously.
So when Phillip Danault, who grew up in Quebec, was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Canadiens, the fans were electrified. Danault has now become a pillar on the team he grew up watching.
Being in the NHL is a dream achieved, but playing for the Canadiens as a player from Quebec is another level. What do you remember about finding out you were on your way to Montreal?
I grew up in Victoriaville, just outside of Montreal, so that was our team growing up. I was at home with my wife cooking dinner when I got the call from the Blackhawks and it was completely unexpected. At first, the news wasn’t good because Chicago was going for a Stanley Cup and Montreal was struggling, but it turned out to be the best thing in my life. It happened really fast, and I was playing the next day. The first people I called was my family. They were really happy. It really is the best thing that could’ve happened, and the fans are amazing here, like nowhere else.
Do you remember the first time you heard Montreal’s famous home-ice horn go off for a goal you scored?
I don’t remember the sound of the horn, but I remember my first goal in Montreal as a Canadien. It was against Dallas, and it’s something I will never forget. When I was on the bench after I scored, they announced my name in French and in English. It wasn’t my first NHL goal, but it felt like the first goal I ever scored.
As a centre, you literally face off with the most dominant players in the NHL every night. Can you talk about how you prepare for that challenge?
To prepare, there is a great team with video, stats, and information on what they do and how they take faceoffs. I also like to be in the moment. I think about what I need to do. We work hard during the season but I think you need to work even harder in the off-season and that’s the time that really makes the difference.
What have you learned from playing against some of the best players in the league?
I enjoy playing against the best. Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid—they are some of the best. Bergeron was my role model growing up, so I love playing against him. They are all honest players. They don’t cheat on plays and work hard every night. I don’t want to be like them, I want to be known for what I do. But, I learn from them. I see all of the little things that they do on the ice and in the corners, and those are things I have picked up.
You recently became a dad. How has fatherhood impacted you as a player?
We have a baby who is six months old and was born just before the playoffs. Having a baby has made a difference. I sleep less but my wife has been amazing and makes sure I get enough rest. Being a father has changed how I play—it’s like a different personality. I would say I play more for the team, and also playing for him. It’s always for him when I’m on the ice. It has changed me.
What is your personal goal this season to help your team win?
I have always been a two-way player, but my goal is to be even more consistent on offence and defence. I also want to be more confident with the puck. I give it up really quickly sometimes. I want to take my time with the puck and have more confidence with it.