Due to COVID-19, Bérubé had seven starts in his Gee-Gee career over two years
After only starting seven games in two years due to the shutdown of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) activities, former Gee-Gees goaltender Tristan Bérubé was simply tired of not having much hockey action and made an important decision for the future of his career.
He decided it was time to make the jump to the professional level. Prompted by the OUA stoppage, on Dec. 28, Bérubé signed a one-way contract with the East Coast Hockey League’s (ECHL) Trois-Rivières Lions, the affiliate club of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Montreal Canadiens.
“When I realized that we weren’t going to play until at least Jan. 24, that’s when I started to look for my options in the ECHL and the Lions came to me on the 28,” said the La Pocatière, Quebec native in a phone interview.
This decision spelled the end of Bérubé’s time as a Gee-Gee.
“Leaving the team was a tough decision for me. I have a lot of respect for the Gee-Gees, but I just want to play at this point.”
In addition, his mental health took a big hit due to the circumstances.
“I did this for my morale and my health, I just want to play hockey. I’ve been playing since I’m six years old. So that was my first mindset.”
Patrick Grandmaître, the men’s hockey team’s head coach, was complimentary of Bérubé but said his départure would hurt the team.
“It’s bittersweet. He was a good player for us and an important piece of our team,” said the coach.
Since leaving the University of Ottawa, the former QJMHL goaltender won his first game with the Lions on Jan. 21. In a stellar performance, Bérubé made 34 saves on 37 shots in a 4-3 road win against the Worcester Railers.
“That was a good feeling for sure. I was happy to get my first pro win,” said Bérubé.
Bérubé is only one of several former Canadian university hockey players to have joined an ECHL team in the last months. According to Grandmaître over 60 U Sports players have signed with an ECHL team. He says players that choose to leave U Sport to turn pro, are taking a calculated risk.
“[They] are mostly graduating players, but some young ones as well. I think it’s a calculated risk for some of them. For others, it is simply that they want to play as many games as they can.”
As for the Gee-Gees, they’ll be back in action on Friday, Feb. 11, when they take on the Concordia Stingers at the Minto Sports Complex.
“We are excited to get back and compete in the next couple of weeks,” said Grandmaître.