By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Maxime Boisclair doesn’t take lightly his role within the Tampa Bay Lightning system.
Whether he’s wearing the Johnstown Chiefs uniform or skating in Springfield, Mass., in the AHL, Boisclair realizes he’s fortunate.
In fact, the native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, knows his life might have been much different if not for his adoption at an early age.
“I was in Haiti for three years. My parents are from Montreal,” Boisclair said after scoring a goal and an assist in the Chiefs’ 3-1 win over visiting Toledo on Sunday. “They came down to Haiti and adopted me. I’ve been in Montreal for the last 19 years. I didn’t live in Haiti long, only three years, and I don’t have many memories.”
Those memories probably wouldn’t have been very pleasant.
Boisclair was born on Valentine’s Day 1985, about a year before the corrupt and repressive regime of Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown after months of disorder.
Haiti already had been dealing with endemic poverty and an outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s.
Provisional governments, violent coups, military regimes and rise to power of Jean-Bertrand Aristide resulted in the deaths of thousands of Haitians in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
More than 40,000 Haitian refugees fled during 1991 and 1992 and most were denied entry to the United States.
Boisclair is well aware that he and his sister, who also is adopted, beat the odds.
“I’m a lucky guy. I could be dead. I’m pretty lucky to be the one they chose,” he said of his adopted parents. “I’ve got a sister who’s from Haiti too. I was in an orphanage. I don’t know my natural parents.
“My (adopted) parents told me that the time I was in Haiti, there was craziness and the war,” Boisclair added. “I’m pretty fortunate to play pro hockey. I’m fortunate to be (home) in Canada, a nice country.”
By comparison, a nine-game streak without a goal might seem trivial.
But hockey is the present tense for Boisclair and his Chiefs teammates.
On Sunday, Boisclair set up Zbynek Hrdel’s goal 3:17 into the second period.
Boisclair scored 10 seconds later to give Johnstown a 2-0 advantage.
“It was good to get the goal,” said Boisclair, still the Chiefs scoring leader despite his collecting only three points during that nine-game stint. “A couple games I didn’t play the way I was supposed to play. But I just try to do my best.
“I got the bounce against Toledo. It’s a nice way to start this stretch because we’re battling for a playoff spot.”
Boisclair has 14 goals and 39 points in 42 games. He had a 13-game point streak from Nov. 12 to Dec. 15, netting eight goals and 21 points in that span.
The AHL’s Falcons recalled him and Boisclair missed Johnstown’s next 13 games while with Springfield.
He remained near the top of the Chiefs’ scoring list throughout his recall, showing just how effective Boisclair had been early in the season.
But once he returned on Jan. 27, Boisclair went scoreless in three games and had only two goals in 16 games prior to Sunday.
He and linemates Gus Katsuras and Hrdel seemed to be in sync on Sunday.
Either way, Boisclair has made a huge impression in Johnstown.
As a black hockey player, he’s among the minority in the professional game. Boisclair also is one of the few Haitian-born professional players.
Former NHL right wing Claude Vilgrain also was born in Port-au-Prince. Vilgrain retired from the pro game in 1998-99.
“I’m pretty fortunate and thankful,” Boisclair said.