CeeBees No. 1 keeper impressed by new team, league
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
Charles Lavigne (right) watches practice with assistant coach Peter George in this Compass file photo. Lavigne is the newest man between the pipes for the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars.
Any goaltender growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s undoubtedly paid close attention to the Montreal Canadiens and the man between the pipes at the time - Patrick Roy.
Those keepers would've tried to mirror Roy's butterfly style, watching how he controlled rebounds and handled pressure.
They might've even had posters of "Saint Patrick" lining their bedroom walls.
Charles Lavigne, the newest goaltender for the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars, was one of those goaltenders. Growing up in the small Ontario town of St. Bernardin, Lavigne looked up to the winner of four Stanley Cup trophys.
In a favourable twist of fate, the 24-year-old would get the chance to play for his childhood idol when Lavigne joined the Quebec Remparts organization of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"It was quite an experience," he told The Compass last week. "I learned a lot."
Lavigne had his finest amateur season with the Remparts. After backing up Nicola Riopel with the Moncton Wildcats in the 2007-08 season, Lavigne got his chance to start with the Remparts.
He posted a record of 33 wins, 11 losses and two ties, posting a goals-against average of 2.37 with six shutouts in 51 starts with the organization.
"(Patrick Roy) rode me all year," said Lavigne. "I couldn't ask for more. I fed off him."
After his time in major junior, Lavigne chose to take his considerable talents to St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
"It seemed like the perfect fit for me," he said.
The Tommies struggled during the three years Lavigne was in town. The team was abysmal from 2009-12, losing 58 games while winning only 15.
However, the Tommies' record does not reflect the work Lavigne did to keep his team in games. Lavigne faced an increasing number of shots on goal, going from 682 to 738 to 763.
Lavigne said he "owes a lot" to St. Thomas and the university's hockey program.
"I didn't think I could do so well in school," he said.
Lavigne does not buy into the notion that major junior is the highest level of amateur hockey in Canada.
"The AUS is stronger," he said. " You're playing against men. It's insanely good hockey and in my opinion, the highest amateur level."
Lavigne said the calibre of play in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League was a surprise to him.
"It's not something we hear a lot about being outside of Newfoundland. I've heard a bit before but never paid much attention to it. Now that I've seen it first hand, it's a hidden gem," he said.
Lavigne recently got his first taste of NLSHL action when the CeeBees opened the season in Gander Oct. 20-21, and he was impressed by what he saw on the ice.
The league is ripe with talent a couple of steps away from professional hockey and the Ontario native feels lucky to be skating with the players.
"I get to play with former NHL draft picks," he said.
One thing that sticks out to Lavigne is that the players have a life outside of the game.
"It's pretty cool to have players who play hockey as a second job, you know, have a regular life and then get to play that high calibre of hockey," he said.
Coming to Harbour Grace
Lavigne graduated from St. Thomas last spring and was all set to take a crack at professional hockey when he got a call to do his Masters in Business Administration at the University of New Brunswick.
The Varsity Reds already had two fifth-year goaltenders - Travis Fullerton and Daniel LaCosta - so Lavigne decided take the year and concentrate on his studies.
Without a spot, head coach Gardiner MacDougall got Lavigne in contact with CeeBees head coach and general manager Corey Crocker.
Lavigne was unaware of the history behind the CeeBees organization. It was not until he arrived in St. John's for the first team skate in September that he realized just how steeped in history it was.
Crocker had high words of praise for Lavigne after he helped the CeeBees win the first two games of the season.
"He's confident with the puck and showed signs of brilliance," Crocker said.