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Wednesday, June 17th

Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll hear countless different answers. Most will give you the usual childhood fantasies: a fireman, an astronaut, a doctor, even a cowboy. But for children who grew up in a household influenced by athletics, professional sports seem to be an easy option to latch onto.

Just ask Rush forward Cedric Montminy.

“Ever since day one, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a professional hockey player because of my dad,” Montminy reflected on his father. “Having his example to look up to, it was an easy decision to make despite being so young in my life.”

Montminy’s father is Andre Gaudette, a former forward who played seven seasons of professional hockey in the Central Hockey League, American Hockey League, and the World Hockey Association from 1968 to 1975. It was his father’s influence that set Montminy on a similar career path, having played in France, Germany, and presently for the Rapid City Rush.

“I can barely remember how old I was when I shared my first hockey memory with my father, that’s how early in my life I got to know hockey,” Montminy continued. “I was maybe 2 or 3, and attempting to skate with him at our local rink. He never let me play with the pucks, though. I could only do that once he felt I could skate well enough as I got older.”

Gaudette’s career started in the CHL with the Amarillo Wranglers in the 1968-69 season. Midway through the year, he earned a call-up to the AHL’s Quebec Aces, where he played until 1971. He then called the Richmond Robins locker room home in the 1971-72 AHL season before making the jump to one of the highest echelons in hockey in the WHA. For the final three seasons of his career from 1972-1975, Gaudette played for the Quebec Nordiques.

The Nordiques are a team synonymous with French-Canadian hockey history. They started in 1972 as a WHA franchise shortly after the league was formed as a direct competitor to the NHL in 1971. The Nordiques were one of the four surviving WHA teams (along with the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and New England Whalers) that merged with the NHL in the 1979-80 season. They played NHL hockey in Quebec until 1995 when the organization moved to Denver to become what we know today as the Colorado Avalanche.

Despite the Nordiques departure from his home province, Montminy still feels a great sense of pride for both the organization and the fact that his father once wore their sweater.

“I can’t express how special it is for me that my father played for the Nordiques, especially as a French-Canadian,” Montminy stated. “Even though they haven’t been in the NHL for almost 25 years, the Nordiques are still very much alive in Quebec and hockey as a whole. Hockey fans in not just the province, but all over the world still wear Nordiques sweaters to hockey games. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to see the Nordiques return home and play in the NHL once again.”

With Gaudette’s career completed just four seasons prior to the historic merger, it became his fatherly duty to impart his knowledge onto the next generation of hockey player. For him, that meant his own son.

“My dad taught me everything I know about hockey. Skating, shooting, skill work, speed, he really taught it all,” Montminy said fondly. “The most important things he taught me were to always work hard, and to always respect the game. You see one constant in hockey’s history that the hardest workers always find a way to win. You also see that respect in all of sports, not just hockey, goes a long way in forging a fulfilling career. Those were very important points he tried to solidify with me at a young age.

“The best part of learning from my father was that he never forced this on me,” Montminy continued. “He always was there to help me with my game, but he wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to do. Too many times do you see little children just forced to play sports, with no choice in playing it or not for years. It burns them out and takes away their love for the game. Looking back, I’m very grateful for that approach he took when raising me to play hockey. I feel that kept the spirit and love for the game very much alive in me. It still does to this day playing as a professional.”

While Montminy and Gaudette share the same base of hockey in work ethic and respect for the game, their styles of play were a bit different.

Montminy fully admits that.

“I am nowhere near my dad’s skill level,” Montminy said in the midst of a hearty laugh. “I’m more of a grinding player on the ice, but he was definitely the complete package.”

Gaudette played 507 games as a professional, and amassed 124 goals, 227 assists, and 351 points. Of his career statistics, 222 games came with the Nordiques, where he earned 61 goals, 105 assists, and 166 points in his three seasons. To compare, Montminy has averaged a point per game with 66 goals, 81 assists, and 147 points in 147 games. Of his career statistics, 86 games are with the Rush, where he’s earned 26 goals, 24 assists, and 50 points over the last two seasons. In his rookie season with the Rush, Montminy became the 2019 Blaine Jarvis “Heart and Soul Award” Winner, the fourth recipient in team history.

“The old man was on another level for his skills,” Montminy expanded. “Apparently when he played for the Nordiques, he was so skilled and speedy that they called him ‘le marchand de vitesse’. It’s not a direct translation, but in English I heard it’s close to ‘roadrunner’. That’s a bit funny and coincidental, considering the [Tucson] Roadrunners are our AHL affiliate.”

At 72 years old, Gaudette hasn’t played professional hockey in 45 years. Montminy, however,  said that his age and time separated from the game hasn’t stopped his father from maintaining an active role in his hockey career.

“He’s always there for advice, which I’m very grateful for,” Montminy said of his relationship with his father. “He experienced so much as a pro at an incredibly high level that he’s a wealth of knowledge. He’ll always share different ways that I can handle situations both on and off the ice. He’s been a very valuable part of my career, and there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him.”

For everything his father accomplished in his career, Montminy did share that there is one thing Gaudette still needs to cross off of his professional hockey checklist, so to speak: watch his son play as a professional hockey player.

“My father has never seen me play professionally in four seasons,” Montminy explained. “Between France, Germany, and now here in Rapid City, he hasn’t been able to watch a game in person. He was going to come visit Rapid City and the Black Hills to watch us in our playoff push, but the Coronavirus unfortunately cancelled our season and his plans in mid-March. It’s something very important to me to have him see me play as a professional. Despite our cancellation, he told me will come watch me next year for sure! I can hardly wait for that moment when he gets to see me play. Hopefully, I score for him!

“I can’t thank my father enough for how much he’s meant to my life and to my career,” Montminy concluded. “To my father, and to all of yours, I say ‘bonne fête des Pères’, which means ‘Happy Father’s Day!’”

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