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“ALL(STAR) IN THE FAMILY”: THE STORY OF PETER QUENNEVILLE

Thursday, January 9th
“ALL(STAR) IN THE FAMILY”: THE STORY OF PETER QUENNEVILLE

Quenneville is a highly respected name in the sport of hockey. It’s on the Stanley Cup four times, and it’s currently on the back of a jersey in three different levels of professional hockey in the world.

One of those three name bars belongs to Rush Captain, Peter Quenneville, who was recently named to the Western Conference All-Star Team for the 2020 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Game, presented by Toyota. His name is synonymous with the sport at the highest of levels. Where Quenneville comes from in Edmonton, Alberta, hockey is revered on the tallest of pedestals. Names like Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, and Fuhr, just to name a few, are hung from the rafters and spoken of like heroes.  Five Stanley Cup Championship banners are hung in Rogers Place, and Northlands Colliseum before that, looked at by every Edmonton child in hockey hoping to one day be a part of something as immortal as a championship team at the NHL level.

Like most Canadian children, Peter grew up loving and playing the game. However, it wasn’t just love of the game that allowed him to head for greater heights, but love of family that has pushed him throughout his whole journey.

“As early as I can remember, my first year playing was when I was six years old. My brother, John, was four. My dad put us in hockey at the same time, half-ice I think,” Peter Quenneville said of his beginnings in hockey.  “We were able to play on the same team. John was younger, so he got an earlier start, but I started skating and fell in love with the game.

“That’s really what every Canadian kid says, especially given the hockey culture where I come from in Edmonton,” Quenneville added. “When you’re immersed in it, and have a father that loves the game, it was natural for me from day one to love and play the sport.  We all loved it, and my brothers and I pushed each other to become the best that we can be.”

That’s just two members of the Quenneville trio. Bringing up the rear was the youngest brother David, who took off just as fast as his older brothers. David is four years younger than Peter, but once he was ready to play, he began on the same hockey path that Peter and John set forth in the household.

“We played for North Seera Minor Hockey, a program in the southeast part of Edmonton,” Quenneville recalled. “When David was ready to play at four years old, my dad put him in the program, half-ice as well, and we just worked our way up from there.”

This was only the beginning for the Quenneville brothers. It didn’t take long for them, despite being such a young age, to realize that hockey would be their passion, their love, and their livelihood.

“For me, I’d have to say I was about 10 years old when I realized this is what I needed to do for the rest of my life,” Quenneville remarked. “I made Team Brick, which was the best 10-year olds in Edmonton at the time on the same team. Now, it’s all of the best 10-year olds in Alberta. It was for The Brick tournament, and it was a showcase where you were playing the best 10-year olds from different provinces and cities all over Canada. There is so much young talent in this tournament. There’s a great number of players I played against that eventually made it to the NHL, so it was a big deal for me to make Team Brick and play in this tournament.

“That’s a moment for me where things started to get serious,” Quenneville continued.  “You’re able to play with and against great players, travel to different cities like Toronto and Winnipeg, and then finish the season with the tournament in July.  That was where I said to myself ‘I want to play in the NHL. What do I have to do to get there?’”

When you hear “Quenneville” and “NHL” in the same sentence, the first name to pop into the vast majority of hockey fanatics heads is Joel Quenneville. A veteran of 803 games as a player in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils, Hartford Whalers, and Washington Capitals, Joel is known best by his nickname: “Coach Q”. After his 14-year playing career ended, “Coach Q” began his career on the bench in 1992 as an assistant with the St. John’s Maple Leafs in the AHL, with whom he played his final professional season. 

Joel’s NHL coaching career began shortly after as an assistant in 1994 with the Quebec Nordiques, and he hasn’t left “The Show” since. He’s been an NHL coach for 25 years, 23 of which he’s served as the Head Coach. In four different locations, Joel’s name is etched on the most immortalizing trophy in hockey, the Stanley Cup. He won the title as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, and again as the Head Coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, 2013, and 2015.  Additionally, he won the President’s Trophy for the NHL’s best record and the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year in 2000 with the St. Louis Blues, coached “Team Staal” in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Carolina, and was an assistant with Team Canada when they won the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Joel is Peter’s cousin, and provided him with exactly the motivation he needed to pursue his hockey dream.

“I remember seeing Joel when he was the Head Coach for the St. Louis Blues. He’d visit to play the Oilers in Edmonton, and I’d see him after games,” Peter reminisced of his cousin. “He was always doing his thing, but more than anything, Joel made us feel that this was doable. I mean, think about it. He actually did it. He got to the NHL. Joel was a phenomenal player in his time. He played in the OHL, was drafted 21st overall in 1978 by Toronto, and played in the NHL. Because of his example, there was never any doubt that we could do it.

“A great deal of credit has to go to my parents as well,” Peter added. “They did a great job of instilling a belief in us that if we want to, and we work hard and do the right things, that we can play hockey professionally and possibly make the NHL. Having that as something to look at provided a lot of belief and understanding that the pathway is there and you climb the ladder. At the end of the day, you just need to get better, and that’s what the focus always was.”

Armed with belief, hope, and a dream, the Quenneville brothers set out to make it all the way to the NHL. All three played major-junior hockey in the WHL, and enjoyed great careers there. Peter and John played for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and even played with each other during Peter’s final year of major-junior in the 2014-15 season where they fell in the WHL Finals to the Kelowna Rockets. John would go on to win the WHL Championship the next season, alongside Peter’s current teammate, Tyler Coulter.  David, on the other hand, played for the Medicine Hat Tigers, and in his final season in 2018 was named to the WHL’s East First All-Star Team, and led all WHL defensemen with 26 goals and 80 points in 70 games.  Additionally, John and David played for Team Canada at the U-18 level, with John winning a bronze medal in 2014, and David earning 2016 World Junior Championship All-Star honors, leading all defensemen in goal-scoring in the tournament.

Peter says that the development of their bonds as brothers, and their development as players has been one of the more special parts of this journey.

“Honestly? It’s the best thing in the world,” Quenneville said emotionally.  “Obviously, all of us love the game, but as much as I love playing the game, I love watching them play and have success equally, right from day one. I can remember going to Christmas tournaments and playing in them when I was of age, but then I couldn’t wait for John’s turn, and then Dave’s turn four years after mine. That trend continued for many years.

“I remember those days in minor hockey where I’d play or they’d play early and we’d have a triple-header on the weekends. There was nothing I looked forward to more than that,” Quenneville continued with his fond memory. “I’d get up early and watch David, say at 10 am, watch Johnny at noon, and then I’d play at 4. We’d get together at home on Christmas and watch World Juniors start on Boxing Day. When you’re a kid, you grow up looking up to those World Junior players for Canada, and we all shared that admiration. We played on the outdoor rink in the backyard together and would rush home from school just so we could get 30 or 40 minutes out there on the ice. Being able to spend that time, share that bond, train and skate together, breakdown each other’s games to help each other improve, I love it more than anything.”

The training, breakdowns, and improvement were impactful. All three brothers were drafted to the NHL out of major-junior, one step closer to their goal. Peter was drafted in 2013 by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 7th round with the 195th overall pick. Next year it was John’s turn, and the Devils selected him with the 30th overall pick in the first round. David’s time came in 2016 with the New York Islanders, who selected him 200th overall in the 7th round of the draft.

Peter recalls that all three draft days were very unique.

“My first year that I was draft eligible, my dad and I didn’t watch the draft. We went and played golf instead,” Peter quipped. “I didn’t get drafted, and that made me even hungrier going to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL the next season. The next year, the draft was in New Jersey, and we watched the draft on television. I didn’t go, but I got a call from an agent there before it showed up on the TV that I was selected by Columbus. It was a cool day for sure.

“The next year, 2014 in Philadelphia, John’s draft year, was the coolest thing ever,” he continued.  “My parents, brothers, and grandparents were at the NHL Draft that year.  He was in the mix to go in the first round. It was starting to get late in the round, and teams we thought were going to take him started making trades and making different moves. When his name was called by the Devils with that final pick at #30, it was one of the coolest days of my life. Sometimes I’ll still watch the video on YouTube and TSN, and you see before he goes up on stage that he gives my grandparents a hug. It fires me up. It was a very special day.

“Two years later in 2016 in Buffalo, it was Dave’s turn, and it was really interesting,” he concluded with the youngest brother. “As a defenseman, Dave was such a prolific scorer, so anything could happen with his draft depending on who liked him. It was fun for me to see when he got drafted, because in the years leading up to his draft year, Dave would give me a hard time for going in the seventh round. Sure enough, he was picked 200th overall, five picks behind where I was selected in my draft. I was able to give him a really hard time back about going later than I did. It was really funny. They were all very unique days. Davey and I shared the bond with the late pick, and having my family there for John’s draft day was really special.”

Each of the three brothers turned professional after being drafted. Peter started his pro career in 2015-16 with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, the latter of which he faces in this week’s series. After his rookie season, Peter headed across the pond to play in Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Finland, before coming back to Denmark to claim the 2018 Danish League Championship. After one more year in Norway, he returned to North America to the Rapid City Rush for the 2019-20 ECHL season.

John, currently with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, started the 2016-17 season with the AHL’s Albany Devils, before making his NHL debut on December 1, 2016 for the New Jersey Devils against Chicago. John has 40 NHL games to his credit with New Jersey and Chicago, and 157 games at the AHL level with the Albany/Binghamton Devils and Rockford IceHogs. In his rookie season with Albany, John was selected to play in the 2017 AHL All-Star Game, but could not participate due to illness. However, he was selected a second time with the Binghamton Devils for the 2019 AHL All-Star Game.

David is on an NHL contract with the New York Islanders, and currently plays for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has spent the majority of his career at the ECHL level with the Worcester Railers over the last two seasons.

When he found out he was going to represent the Western Conference in the 2020 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Game, presented by Toyota, Peter told his brothers as soon as he could. Despite his younger brother’s All-Star Game experience, he hasn’t asked for many pointers just yet.

“We haven’t talked about it too much, John and I, but he was really fired up when I broke the news to him that I was selected,” Peter said with a smile.  “It was awesome to watch his All-Star Game at the AHL level though. He did great in the skills competition in the hardest shot and breakaway relays, and the three-on-three looked like it was a lot of fun out there.

“I’m hoping my experience is much of the same as his,” Quenneville remarked on his All-Star Game selection. “I’m hoping to get the chance to do the hardest shot event, and have some fun with the three-on-three.  I’m also looking forward to meeting some of the other gifted players from around the ECHL. It should be a great experience for the three days I’m in Wichita. I’m very proud to represent my family and the Rush organization in the midseason showcase of the ECHL’s best.”

Professional hockey has been kind to the Quenneville brothers, and the future is even more promising for where they can go in the sport. No matter where they are, who is playing when, or how hectic their schedules get, the three of them make time to watch each other’s play, carrying the others in their thoughts from city to city and rink to rink. Peter keeps that in mind daily, and is thankful that their support, and the support of his teammates and organization have led to this moment on January 22nd when he’ll put on a Western Conference All-Star jersey.

“I’m thankful for this opportunity. I owe a lot to my teammates, my linemates, and my staff. Everyone here with the Rush has been great to me,” Quenneville concluded.  “This is my first year back from Europe, and it’s been a blast. Going to an event like this, something I’ve never done, is exciting. To have the support I’ve had all year from the fans, friends, and family, definitely means a lot to me. I hope to go out there, make some plays, and have a great time.”

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