Finding out within the US or Canada? For a hockey participant, the distinction is big.

André Ruel is a well-known agent from Quebec who is part of Pat Brisson’s team at the prestigious Creative Artists Agency.

Recently, in a casual conversation, Ruel told me how hard it is to fall on a listening ear (on the NHL team leaders side) when you say the name of a player who wears the colors of a Canadian varsity team.

“Team leaders often know little about Canadian college hockey. And in their eyes, the caliber of hockey that’s played at our universities doesn’t compare to what’s done in the NCAA,” explained Ruel.

The latter notably represents goalkeeper Étienne Marcoux, a former member of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada who just won two consecutive national championships with the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

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The story of Étienne Marcoux is an interesting one.

After having an outstanding campaign as a junior (his . 904 save percentage is among the best in QMJHL history), Marcoux signed a one-year professional contract with the Anaheim Ducks organization.

But after just nine games in the Premier AA Hockey League (ECHL), recurring shoulder injuries forced him to go under the knife.

“The UnB technician called me during my long recovery. I was only 21 years old and only needed two years to get my business degree. He told me that it was worth it, that the level of play was high at university level and that it was going to be positive”, explains the young goalkeeper, who will graduate this summer.

In addition to the two national championships won at UnB, Marcoux actually had several positive experiences on ice.

For example, at the start of the 2015-2016 season, his team played a preseason game against the Portland Pirates, the AHL farm club of the Florida Panthers.

And to everyone’s surprise, it was the students who won by 5 to 3!

“We were really surprised that we could hold our own against Portland. It was the last pre-season game before the start of the season and we managed to give them a good game”, says Marcoux, still in disbelief.

That year, UNB also defeated two strong NCAA teams: Boston College (5–2) and the University of Maine (5–1). Also in 2015-16, UNB V-Reds also tied Harvard 3-3 and lost 3-2 to University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“This year, we suffered two losses in our games against NCAA teams (5-3 against Merrimack and 3-1 against New Hampshire), but the fact remains. When we face the American teams, they are very good hockey games, ”he defends.

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From an individual point of view, Étienne Marcoux added 31 wins in 32 games during his time at UNB.

This year, it had the best goals-against average in the country (1.59) in addition to dominating most statistical categories within the association of Maritime universities.

“I probably had the best two seasons of my life. I’m much better than I was at 21 when I signed with Anaheim. But my agent told me that when talking to NHL organizations, my college grades don’t mean much. Decision makers trust what I did in the QMJHL more because, in their eyes, I kind of dropped out of circulation in the last two years,” said Marcoux.

Admittedly, it’s a little mind-blowing.

In the last two months since the end of the college hockey season, nearly 140 NCAA players have signed contracts with NHL organizations.

A few had already been drafted, but several dozen of them were free agents who never caught the attention of the pros until they graduated.

In fact, according to College Hockey Inc., 85 former NCAA players played in the NHL this year even though they were never drafted.

Meanwhile, in Canada, again this year, only a handful of college players found takers. The Canadian awarded an American League contract to one of those rare birds, UQTR Patriotes forward Guillaume Asselin.

Despite everything, Étienne Marcoux remains positive and is convinced he can make the leap back to the professionals next season. We wish him with all our hearts.

Still, his story illustrates how perceptions and the prevailing system favor hockey players growing up on the American side of the border.

To convince yourself of this, just remember the advantages enjoyed last year by goalkeeper Charlie Lindgren, an American hope that CH had signed as a free agent.

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