Following the move of the St. John’s IceCaps, the Montreal Canadiens’ minor-league affiliate will be much closer to home. This coming October, the Laval Rocket will begin to play at the Place Bell.
One could make a 30-plus minute drive from the Bell Centre to the Rocket’s new home, Place Bell, or a 40-minute metro ride to the Montmorency station. It’s literally a stone’s throw away from the metro stop.
The Rocket may be the city’s first foray into professional hockey. But Laval has its own hockey history.
Laval in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Finding information about junior hockey teams before the 1950s is pretty tough, but the Laval Saints were the city’s first junior hockey team. They started play in 1963 as part of the Metropolitan Montreal Junior Hockey League.
The Saints would later become one of the first 11 squads to join the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1969, where they were coached by Hall-of-Fame defenseman Doug Harvey for the 1969-70 season. Laval would see four other franchises in the QMJHL following the Saints, starting with the National (1971-1979), the Voisins (1979-1985), the Titan/Titan College Français (1985-1998).
A host of players have spent their junior days in Laval. Just to name a few: Vincent Damphousse, Mike Bossy, J.J Daigneault, Patrice Brisebois, Laval Rocket head coach Sylvain Lefebvre and another National Hockey League notable you may remember.
The Legend of Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux shines brighter than any other NHL player who got their start in Laval. Drafted into the QMJHL as a 15-year-old, Lemieux electrified the league in his three seasons (1981-1984) with the Laval Voisins, claiming he’d break the league’s scoring records. That he did.
The Hall-of-Famer collected 562 points in 200 QMJHL games. His third and final season was his best, as he scored 133 goals and 282 points in 70 games, breaking league records for most goals and points scored in a season. It remains the greatest season-scoring year in Canadian Hockey League history.
Le Colisée de Laval // The House of Pain
The 3,500-seat arena has seen hockey games, and even a few basketball games, since its opening in 1954. QMJHL teams like the Voisins, the National, and the Titan have played here. Le Colisée de Laval has even hosted a Memorial Cup.
The Laval Chiefs, a semi-pro team, made their home at Le Colisée de Laval, earning its “House of Pain” nickname through the years. From the late 90s to the early 2000s, opposing players rarely left Laval’s Le Colisée Arena unscathed. The semi-professional hockey team, the Laval Chiefs, rumbled as part of the Quebec Semi-Pro Hockey League.
The Chiefs’ playing style was a return of the old-style of hockey: brawls and physicality winning the day. The team’s jerseys were even similar from the ones used in the hockey classic, “Slap Shot”.
The Chiefs were even the subject of a 2004 documentary, which followed their day-to-day happenings.
The Chiefs served as great source material for another hockey movie, “Goon”, written by Montrealer Jay Baruchel and starring Seann William Scott and Liev Schreiber.
The Chiefs moved from Laval in 2006, while the QSPHL would turn into the Ligue Nord-Américaine du Hockey.
Les Braves et Les Prédateurs
In 2013, semi-pro hockey returned to Laval in the form of the Laval Braves. The Braves originally played in the town of Valleyfield, but only lasted a few games into the 2013-14 LNAH season. Financial issues and poor attendance forced a move to Laval, where they finished the year at Le Colisée de Laval. The Braves were then renamed the Prédateurs, just in time for the 2014-15 LNAH season.
The Prédateurs would have back-to-back losing seasons in the LNAH. This past March, the Prédateurs announced they were ceasing operations.