Vincent Desharnais Discusses his Journey to the NHL, Helping Sick Kids, and Paul Coffey’s Influence

Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
On June 25th, 2016, in Buffalo, the Edmonton Oilers drafted Vincent Desharnais out of Providence College with the 183rd pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He was 20 years old. It was his last year of draft eligibility, as he’d been passed over in 2014 and 2015. He wasn’t on any scouts’ radar in 2014 while playing for Northwood High School in the United States. The following year he played Junior A in Chilliwack before getting recruited to Providence. He only dressed for half the games with Providence, but the Oilers’ scouts saw something in the lanky defender.
Seven years after he was drafted, Desharnais made his NHL debut with the Oilers on January 13th, 2023, in Anaheim. His journey to the NHL wasn’t easy or quick, and there were times he questioned if it would happen. But since being recalled, he’s beaten the odds, and next Tuesday, he will become only the sixth player drafted 183rd overall to play 100 NHL games. He’ll join Kelly Miller, drafted in 1983, Donald Audette (1989), Tyler Arnason (1998), Paul Ranger (2002) and Nate Thompson (2003). He could surpass Ranger as the most games played by a D-man drafted at 183. Ranger skated in 323 NHL games. Desharnais is still improving and growing his game.
He joined me in studio on Sports 1440 to discuss his career path, those who helped him fulfill his dream, his desire to help out in the community and how Paul Coffey has influenced his career.
Jason Gregor: You’ve had a pretty unique career path, unlike a lot of players. How did a kid from Laval ended up playing Junior A in Chilliwack for a year?
Vincent Desharnais: First of all, I was not drafted in the Q (QMJHL), so that was a big thing. I obviously wanted to get drafted. When you grow up in Quebec, getting drafted in the Q, going to play there, it’s kind of a dream. My first year, 15 years old, I didn’t get drafted. The team that I was playing for, five guys were at the draft, and I was the only one who was not drafted.
So, I was crying, it was the end of the world, my career is over, this and that. The team I was playing for, it was kind of a prep school, so we would travel to the U.S. It was called Ulysses Prep School. One of the guys there came to see me and said, hey, we’ll find you a Plan B, you’ll go to the U.S., you’ll go to prep school, you’ll play college. So, I went to go play prep school at Northwood Prep. From there, I fell in love with the college aspect of it. I was like, I want to go play college, it’s the route for me.
From prep school, I got some interest from the BCHL, and I had a few teams calling. My agent knew the coach, Jason Tatarnic, and they kind of talked and he was like, ‘Hey, bring him in, we’ll work on his boots, we’ll work on his puck skills.’ Next thing you know, I played there for a year. I was supposed to play there for two, and I only played there for a year.
Providence offered me to come in right away and I accepted it in late April. I went on my first Thursday of summer school, I think July 1st, I showed up there.
Gregor: In Providence for summer school?
Desharnais: Yeah, for summer school. I thought I was going to go play a second year in the BCHL until April 20th or so, and July 1st, that was the first day of summer school at Providence College.
Gregor: Quite the turnaround. You were 18 when you went to Chilliwack. Were you already 6’5″, 6’6″ at 18?
Desharnais: Yeah, I think by then I was 6’5″, probably 190, 200 pounds. I mean, I’m skinny now, but I was really skinny back then (laughs). I remember when I was 15, and I showed up to my first camp and they were like, ‘Look at him, he was like, this guy’s so tall.’ I was like 6’1″, 145 pounds. I was a string bean. It was crazy. And that’s why I think that college was the right path for me, because it gave me four years to work out, work on my body, my maturity.
It’s hard to be a big man and to skate every day and to be fluent in skating. My skating has gotten so much better. And even now, sometimes I’ll do some movements and it doesn’t look very fluid. So, you can only imagine five, 10 years ago how bad it was.
Gregor: So, now you’re in Providence College. You started in summer school then made the team, but your games played was low. Were you injured or healthy scratched often?
Desharnais: No, I was a scratch.
Gregor: Take me through your progression because, after your first year at Providence that’s when you got drafted.
Desharnais: Yeah, that’s right. I played 18 games out of 42, I believe, or 41. I think the first half of the season, I probably played six games. And I would play one game and I would be scratched five games. I would play one game; I’d be scratched for another two or three weekends. And in college, we don’t play that much. So, you just practice two hours a day. And especially when you’re not playing, you practice even more and you’re still on the ice even more. So, I would be on the ice like two and a half hours a day, just practicing and trying to get better.
And I remember the assistant coach, the D coach, it was Scott Borick. And I’m so thankful for him because he spent so much time with me. And he gave me so much confidence of believing in myself. It’s hard. You’re a kid, you just show up. In my rookie class there was seven of us. And the other six guys were from the USHL. They all knew each other. I’m a Frenchie. I show up there. I’m a tall, lanky guy. Who’s that guy? His English is awful. His accent is not great. And for me, all that anxiety, all that stuff, I just stayed on the ice. And for me, it was my safe place.
I’ve always had a good work ethic, but I think that’s where I developed it even more. Then I realized that if I want to prove to people that I can play, if I want to prove to my coaches, my teammates, I just got to work for it. And the more I work for it, the more it’s going to come.
I finished the season; I was playing every game. I was scratched for two months. I didn’t play for two months. But when I got back in for my first game, I didn’t come out. I played the rest of the season. I played NCAA tournament. I scored my first goal at the TD Garden in the hockey semifinals.
Gregor: Come on.
Desharnais: My brother was there in the stands, right aligned with me so when I scored, he was right in front of me. It was crazy. It was a really cool learning experience. It was hard at first because I’m like, ‘Hey, I left everything behind to come to college.’ My parents are paying a lot of money that they don’t necessarily have that they’re just putting on the (credit) card. They’re just putting on the house because they just want to give that dream to me. And I doubted myself quite a bit. And I remember calling my agent.
I remember that moment. We’re playing in Seattle, and I think it was between the second and third. And I’m in the stands. I called him. I was like, ‘Do you think I should transfer? Do you think I should, I’m not playing here. I want to play.’ He’s like, ‘Vin, just keep working. You’re going to get there. You’re the type of kid that will. You will get there.’ And next thing, you know, I’m assistant captain then later on captain. And just so many great things that happened to me. And it was the best four years of my life for sure.
Gregor: That is a great lesson. The easy thing to do would be to quit because anybody can quit. But you’re like, no, no. And you need some people to remind you not to quit. You mentioned your parents. Do you remember any advice or a specific conversation with your parents that helped you keep going? How was the support system from your parents?
Desharnais: Um, so my mom was always, ‘Whatever you decide to do, I’ll, I’ll be there for you. I’ll support you.’ And my dad was a little bit tougher with, ‘No, you stay there, you keep working hard. You keep going. Just trust yourself, believe in yourself.’ And it was, I’ve always had that kind of struggle of finding everyone else better than me and always thinking, ‘Oh, wow, that guy’s really good. Oh, that guy’s really good. And they are way better than me.’
But my dad, my brother, they always believed in me. And even when I was in the East Coast, my dad kept telling me, ‘You’re going to make it. I know it. You just got to keep at it.’ And I’m like ‘I’m in the East coast. Relax. Like I’m so far away.’ And when you have that kind of belief, every day that you talk to him, and he mentioned it and he was not saying you’re the best player in the world. Like you’re, the next Connor McDavid. He was not over pumping me up, but he just believed in me. And when you have that support, that everyday support, at some point, you know, you just believe in yourself. It was the same thing with my brother for me.
So, when it happened, when I finally made it, to share that with them in Anaheim (first NHL game). I remember I told my brother and my dad afterwards; I gave them a handshake. I gave them a hug. And I told them we made it. It was not, I made it. It was, we made it because they’re living their dream through me. And they supported me through thick and thin, when I was in the East coast, or dealing with a concussion. And, and it was so many things that happened that, that were not necessarily typical for an NHL player.
And, and I remember my dad kept saying, ‘Once you get there, you’re not going to leave. You’re going to stay there because you’ve gone through so many things in your career that once you make it, you’re going to have all the experience you need and you’re going to be able to stick around and stay there.’ And next day, not that I didn’t believe him, but I was like, ‘I’ll focus on just getting there and we’ll see afterwards.’
And now like you said, I’m 97 games in and you know, things are going pretty well. I keep getting better every day. I keep trying to work on my game and it’s crazy to think about, that four or five years ago, I was, you know, three leagues away and, I was so far away and now I’m in.
Gregor: Now you mentioned how when you didn’t get drafted in the Q, you were crying thinking your career’s over. Let’s fast forward a few years. It is now 2016, you turned 20 in May. The draft is in June. I’m guessing you weren’t at the draft in 2016. Were you even thinking you might get drafted?
Desharnais: I was actually following the draft. My brother lives three hours away from Montreal. He lives on a lake. So, we were on his boat.
Gregor:  So, you were thinking maybe you’d get drafted?
Desharnais: Well, I was like, maybe there’s some chance. And my agent talked to me. He said, there’s a bunch of teams that called me and, and it’s going to be a, you know, you might be a late, late rounder. And so around the fifth or sixth round, I started kind of looking at my phone, kind of refreshing it a little bit. I was with two of my good buddies. My brother was there, and they were all like having casual, drinking beers and they were like ‘Have a beer.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, not yet. If I get a call, I want to be present. I want to be a hundred percent there.’
And, at some point, my brother talked to me. He’s said, ‘You’re going to put the phone away right now. Okay? I’m tired of seeing you looking at your phone. Just enjoy the day. It’s a beautiful sunny day. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, you’ll find a way.’
And not too long after I just see my agent calling me. So, right away, I kind of got excited. I answered, and he was like, ‘Congrats — you just got drafted to Edmonton.’ I kind of froze. And then right after that, my phone rang and it said home, so I answered, and it was my mom. ‘You got drafted!’ and she’s crying and she’s so, so happy for me. And, still my brother, my buddies don’t know it. They’re still having fun.
I just put my head down and I started crying. And my brother comes over and says, ‘I told you it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get drafted,’ because he thought that the draft was over and I didn’t get drafted and that’s why I was crying (laughs). And then I told him I got drafted to Edmonton. Then the rest of the day was just such a crazy, fun day to enjoy with my family, with my buddies, my brother.
I remember the first person from Edmonton who called me was Rick Carrier. He was the director of development back then. And I remember he called me, and I told him, ‘Oh, I’ll show you guys that I was worth drafting.’ And you know, stuff [like that]. He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah for sure.’ He is probably thinking everyone says that. I kept remembering that sentence I told them. And that kind of drove me forward and thinking I’m a man of my word. I’ll show him, I’ll show him that was right. And when I played my first game, the dinner before I told that to my parents. Remember when I talked to Rick, and I told him I was worth drafting. Well, I’m really happy that I stuck with it and showed him, and here we are. I made it.’
Gregor: You come to the Oilers training camp, but you got injured two years in a row. More adversity. Especially last year, because many felt you had taken big strides in the AHL and your former head coach, Jay Woodcroft and assistant coach, Dave Manson, were now in Edmonton. They knew you. With all the adversity you’d dealt with in your career was that the toughest to deal with?
Desharnais: When it happened, I broke a bone in my hand and at first, they said it’s going to be four to six weeks. It’s going to heal. You’re going to be fine. It was going to probably heal up right around training camp, right around the first couple of days. I thought I’ll be fine. I’ll get a week or two and I’ll play. And then after a month they’re said the bone is not healing up. You’ll have to get surgery. And it’s going to be an extra four to six weeks.
That one was really tough to hear. I was very frustrated. But I changed my mindset pretty quickly because I’m like, I’m here. I have the contract for two years and I know what I can do. I kept a pretty positive mindset through all that. My parents came to spend a week with me as well, to kind of help me out through my surgery. And so I went down to Bakersfield, played five games and it got infected again and had to get another surgery. And it’s just like at some point you wonder what’s going on here. Like, am I not doing things, right? But I kept going back to thinking it is all out of my power. There’s nothing I can do about it. So, I kept just thinking positive about it.
I’ll just take some time off time for my body to heal up. So, I was getting lots of treatments, my back, my hips, you know, to try to feel as good as possible coming back. And I came back, played eight games and I got called up. I didn’t think it was going to happen that fast. But once I got called up, I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. Let’s do it. I’ve waited long enough.’ And I because I had not been playing that much, I had so much energy. I felt so good when I got called up. I was so jacked up for a couple of months where guys have been playing for half a season already. And you feel it when you play a lot. You’re not as energetic and all that. But that second half of the season, every game, I was like, I’m in the National Hockey League. Let’s go.
I started with two hand surgeries and now I’m here. I’ll just enjoy every game, every practice and let’s just get better.


Mar 3, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Vincent Desharnais (73) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Desharnais is scheduled to play his 100th NHL game next Tuesday v. the Montreal Canadiens, which will be quite the moment for a young French Canadian. As noted above, Desharnais’ path to the NHL wasn’t easy or quick, but he is starting to feel more like an NHL player every day, and with that he wants to give back. You might have noticed he is growing out his hair. He explains why.
“I’m doing a challenge, it’s called the Leucan Shaved Head Challenge. It’s a charity back home in Quebec, and it’s a challenge where they basically encourage people to raise money, and then you shave your head. You’re trying to support people that get diagnosed with cancer. And this charity will help kids who are diagnosed with cancer, and they’ll help their families as well.
Gregor: You’ve done this a few times, have you not?
Desharnais: Yeah, it’s going to be the third time I’m doing it, so combined the first two times I did it, I raised just a little bit over 10 thousand.
Gregor: And your brother Alex is doing it with you?
Desharnais: Yeah, my brother decided this year he’s going to do it with me. He was kind of making fun of me when I shaved it two years ago, he didn’t like it, but now he decided to do it. So, it’s going to be interesting to see him with a bald head, I’m pretty excited, but it’s for a great cause. I think of these young kids and it makes you sad. I had a childhood where I didn’t have to worry about being sick, or worry about losing my hair, or going to the hospital a couple times a week, or even staying at the hospital for months. And not having really a normal childhood. So, for me to shave my head, and to spend some time to try to raise some money, that’s not much for me to do, and to use my platforms to try to raise money for kids that didn’t have the same luck that I had, and thinking about those families too, those parents who are seeing their kids going through so much pain. The charity, the foundation will help kids from zero to 17 years old. I’m not saying it’s better at 17, but think about a baby, one, two years old, who doesn’t even know what life is, and he’s got to go through chemo treatments, and I can only imagine the pain as a parent that you feel. So, if I can help in any way by raising money, raising awareness for it, I think it’s a great cause.
Gregor: And you’re trying to up your game, you’ve taken it pretty seriously this year. You’ve reached out to a few of the big dogs in your inner circle, so people who donate $50 or more get to go in a raffle. There’s a signed McDavid jersey, a signed Gretzky jersey, and a signed Paul Coffey jersey, and you might as well throw in a signed Vinny jersey since it is your fundraiser? (Here is the link where you can donate.)
Desharnais: I might do it, but I wanted to have the big boys in, I think when you think of the Oilers, I mean those three guys, there’s been so many great players, but those three are probably the top three players that ever played for the Oilers. I wanted to get the fans involved, I think the fans have been great to me, and if they donate money, I want them to be able to get something back.
I talked to Connor, I talked to Coffey, and right away there was no hesitation. It was ‘Yes, of course, anything you need, we’re here for it.’ So, I asked Coffey if maybe he could reach out to his good buddy Gretz, and right away again it was a ‘Yes, don’t even worry about it, he’s in.’ So, I’m really thankful to see those guys, because they really don’t have to, they have so many people reaching out to them for different fundraisers and different foundations. For them to share that with me, to give me access to those jerseys, I mean I think it’s pretty special, and hopefully the fans are as excited as I am.
Obviously, cancer is such a big issue and such a big illness. So, you can donate towards research, you can donate towards emotional and physical assistance, which I think we can all understand that it’s very challenging for both the kids, and from talking to families, it’s almost harder on the parents. Leucan is great at providing that support, and they’ll organize different events to have families come together and share their experiences so that they don’t feel alone, because some families, maybe some parents, they don’t have anyone around them going through the exact same thing of having a sick kid at home or at the hospital, so that’s a great thing too. You can pick for just financial assistance, no one I think in life will say, ‘okay, let’s plan a little fund just in case our children get diagnosed with cancer.’
So they have different grants, they have a bone marrow transplant grant, because it’s very expensive. They have a recurrence grant if the cancer comes back, and they’ll even have a monthly care allowance, because parents, if you spend every day at the hospital, you’re not working, and sometimes they’ll have other kids, you’ve got to provide for your family. So, Leucan will help that, they will help those families with a certain amount monthly. It’s not just about the money, it’s just about giving those families a little bit of a better lifestyle. Even though they’re going through so many horrible things that was unplanned, and another big thing too is that they support families going through grieving too, because as much as we’re talking about the positive and giving the financial support and all that… some kids don’t make it. Just thinking about it, it hurts to think that you put your kid into this world for him or her to die at three, four, five, six years old, ten years old from a disease that you had no control over.
So, Leucan will provide support to those parents to try to help them to go through that. I’m really grateful for that foundation in Quebec. They’ve been around for 45 years, and they’ve been around because people have been so generous, and I think it’s a cause that everyone can get behind, and that’s why I hope that even though it’s in Quebec, and I hope that Edmonton can get behind me, and they can help me reach my goal and even go over it, because it’s not going to me, it’s not going to the Oilers, it’s going to all those families, all those kids that need people to help them get somewhat of a better life.
Gregor:  I can tell it’s very meaningful to you, and now that you’re an NHL player, do you feel the importance to make sure that you can use your profile to benefit causes like this more. Do you look at it is like you need to do even more in the community?
Desharnais: Yeah, I do. I have a journal that I write in every day, and I have affirmations that I’ll write in it every day, and one is I want to give back to the community. But not just money, it’s time. Because it’s easy to give money, it’s easy to just, oh, here’s a thousand dollars, just leave me alone.
But when you take your time, and we’re pretty busy, we’re traveling a lot, but taking the time to do it, I think that’s way more valuable than just saying, hey, take money and just leave me alone. So every day I try to find ways to get involved, sometimes it’s a little bit harder, but I think this cause is great, and that’s why I came to you, and that’s why I’m here right now, because I’m trying to use my platforms, and radio (and the Internet), to actually reach out to more people, and I have a few other things that I’m working with the team.
I think there’s going to be a game before the end of the season that Skins (Stuart Skinner) and I are going to get a few families Kids with Cancer foundation, and we’re going to have them at one of our games. We’re going to get a box for them, and we’re going to go meet them afterwards. It’s just small things, and we’re not doing it because we want people to tell us, oh, it’s great, you’re doing, thank you. I don’t care about that. I’m not doing it to feel good about myself, I’m doing it because I actually met some people from the foundation. I met four or five kids, and their parents at one of the games. And to see the pain that they’re going through,  and just how happy they were to see us, to come to one of the games, to take pictures with us, to joke around with us, they just forget that they’re going through chemo treatments, and they forget some of them were in the terminal phase of Cancer.
I can only imagine the parents knowing that their kids won’t make it, but for one night, they don’t have to think about it, and they can just enjoy hockey. And they can just enjoy having fun, and seeing their kids smile, and seeing their kids not being in pain, so that’s the way I see it. And I try to, like you said, use where I’m at, use the platform to try to touch as many people as I can, and again, not just doing it with money, but doing it with time. I think you reach a lot more, and it’s way more valuable than just money.


Jan 27, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Vincent Desharnais (73) and goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) celebrate the Oilers 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators. It is the Oilers 16th straight win at Rogers Place.
It is rare to see Desharnais without a smile on his face. He is proud of the work he put in to get to the NHL, but he is far from satisfied. He wants to play a bigger role. He wants to help the team win, and he discussed the importance of enjoying where you are in life. Regardless of what you are doing.
Desharnais: First of all, you, you’ve got to enjoy the grind. I tell myself that every day, enjoy it. Because things happen, good and bad, but also great things happen. And for being a late round pick, a guy who was passed over twice, I always remind myself to enjoy my day. And I think I might cherish it more than guys who were for sure going to make it like Connor McDavid. He’s such a great player. Such a great person. I love Connor. But he knew he was going to, he knew right from juniors, he was going to play in the NHL and I’m sure he enjoyed it. But I think that maybe for me, it was a little bit more meaningful because I’ve been through so much and I grinded a lot to get here, to make it here.
It’s hard. Some days were really hard. Some days you’re doubting yourself, but that’s why you’ve got to surround yourself with a great support group. And you’ve just got to believe in yourself. That’s the best thing I can say. And have fun with it, because life goes by so quickly. You just gotta have fun.
Gregor: How much fun do you have? Do you get a thrill out of blocking a shot?
Desharnais: Yeah, I do. When I started doing it more in college and at first, it’s scary. And you think about injuries. But now when I don’t block it, I get mad at myself. I do enjoy blocking shots and a game like Seattle where the coach puts me on the ice with 50 seconds left on a six on four. And it’s just a rush of adrenaline on every shot I blocked. Afterwards when the game is over, I was so proud of myself. I put my body on the line and I loved it. I love that. I was like, I hope it happens again. Because that’s me.
Connor will score three. He’s going to be pumped.  That’s great. We need that. But I think we also need guys who are ready to sacrifice and I’m ready to do it every game. And sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes I’ll get scored on. I won’t block it. And I’ll watch the replay about 10 times to make see how could I have blocked that shot because that’s my job. And I love doing my job.
Gregor: Life is more fun when you enjoy what you’re doing. Paul Coffey is your dad’s favorite player. So, take me back to when your dad found out Coffey was going to be your coach.  But what did your dad say when all of a sudden Coffey is your assistant coach. How did that conversation go?
Desharnais: Um, well, he was he was surprised, like, obviously, and then Coff in his press conference he was like, ‘I didn’t really want to be here,’ (laughs). But I just took it in. My dad was obviously very happy for me. But he didn’t really know what to expect right? Like even all six D-men, we didn’t really know what to expect. And, you know, Paul’s such an old school guy. And we love him. We loved that he was around (as a consultant). We’d love talking to him. His stories are great. But as a as an assistant coach, it’s different, right? There’s behind the bench, then during practices, but he’s the same person.
He didn’t change. And he’s just he’s got that swagger, you know, that swagger of I’m one of the best ever played. And he’s not cocky about it. But he’s got that confidence, that swag, and I think he gave us that and it translates to us on the ice and during practices. And he always talks about to be detailed and to put the puck on their tape. Don’t miss it.
And if you miss, he tells you about it. And if the forwards miss it, tell them. And tell them you want the puck. He stresses often how we got to talk. We have to hold each other accountable because once it comes to playoffs, it’s too late. It’s too late to start doing that. We had the whole season to do it, to build some habits, to build the confidence in each other, six D-men, all four lines, the goalies. If you want to win a championship, you need everybody. So he’s like every day he keeps talking about, hey, we’re winning, like we’re going all the way.
He gives us that confidence. He’s made a pretty big change for us.
Gregor: The completed passes from Vincent Desharnais last year in pre-Coffey, compared to now, it has almost doubled. You’re attempting more passes. Was it instant for you? When you play or watch video, is it that noticeable in regards to your decisions with the puck?
Desharnais: Yeah, yeah, it is. At first, it was a little stressful for me because, my games before Coff, my mentality was get the puck out. You got to clear your D zone. That’s what you’re here for. You’re here to clear your D zone. And after that, it doesn’t matter what happens. And when he came in, it was like, no, make plays. If you need to use the glass, use it. You know, if you’re in trouble, it’s going to happen a few times a game where you’re tight, the forecheck is good.
You’re in the best league in the world. It’s going to happen. But he goes, you guys got to make plays. You guys have to move your boots and move your feet. Move forward. Make the pass. Don’t be standing still making a pass. Always, always have your feet moving. That’s something that really resonated with me of always moving my feet. That’s one of the biggest changes. And once you move your feet, the play, the plays will open up and you see more things. The forecheck will change. So, by moving my feet more, I feel like I’ve been seeing more plays. And obviously, when the coach is telling you to make more plays and it works, you get more confident and then your teammates realize that you can make plays and they give you confidence too by always doing a little stick tap or like [saying] ‘Holy Vinny, great job. Keep doing that. We love it.’
Let’s say for the last game or two, I watch video and I’m think I could have made more plays. But I would have watched the same games, let’s say at the end of last year or at the start of the season, and I would have thought that I played great. I thought I was fine.  I cleared the zone. But now I’m watching. I’m like, I thought I threw the puck a little bit too much. Maybe I could have moved my feet a little bit more and made some better plays or just try to open up the play a little bit more, instead of just throwing it as soon as I get it.  So, there’s definitely a difference in mindset.
I think that’s the biggest difference. Coff definitely gave us that confidence. But I did the work, and I did a lot of work with Mark Stuart after practices to see those plays and to handle the puck better and to make quicker passes. And just trust myself.
Gregor: Speaking of Stuart. What has been his biggest influence since he took over the penalty kill?
Desharnais: To use our instincts. To use our instincts is a big thing. I feel like we were maybe thinking a little bit too much. And if you look at all the best PKs in the league, yes, there’s a great structure. Every good PK will have a great structure. But at some point, you have to use your instincts. If one guy pressures, then all four guys pressure and we talk a lot more and, you know, those short shares (passes) to clear the puck. We do it a lot more. So, I think he’s been doing such a good job at focusing on small details. Like the sticks.
The amount of times he showed clips of our sticks at the wrong place, he’s like, boys, we talked about it. It’s the small details. There’s a good structure. And then after that, it’s our instincts. You guys are on the kill for a reason. You guys are killers. You guys are penalty killers. That’s you guys are paid to do that. Well, use your brain.  Use your instincts. Just don’t overthink it.  Just do it.
And I think that, yes, we had a couple slumps in the last month or so, but I think the last four or five games, we got back to it. We got back to our good PK, to our instincts. And he’s been doing a hell of a job. For his second year as an assistant coach, he’s been doing a hell of a job.
Gregor: I want to go back to a young Vincent Desharnais: maybe 10, 12, 15 years ago. You’re watching hockey, and you mentioned you were a big fan of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. You faced them in back-to back games, and if I was betting on who you’d get in a scrum with I’d lean towards Ovechkin, over Crosby, but late in the Pittsburgh game you and Crosby got into it. Was it weird at all for you?
Desharnais: I was a huge Crosby fan growing up. I still have his jersey back home. Growing up, my brother and I loved him. He played in the Q for Rimouski, and we would watch him play. And we thought he was such a good player, such a good person as well.  He’s so generous with his time and with charities and with kids. But yeah, I didn’t like what he did to Kulak at the end of the second. I just gave him a little push to just let him know. I wanted to kind of talk to him and tell him. And he turned around and tried to spear me. And I just wanted to show him that I didn’t like it.
And yeah, after the game, I was walking in the hallway, and not many Pittsburgh employees were smiling at me. Let’s put it that way. But then if you look back at when we played in Washington, I got a little bit in a scrum with Ovie too. And he crushed me right in the face. He crushed me in the face, and he got a penalty for that. And we started the second period with a power play.
So yeah, I can die and say that I got in scrums with Crosby and Ovie.
Gregor: That’s not bad for a seventh round draft pick at 20 years of age who made his NHL debut seven years later. And now you are as a regular with the Edmonton Orders, a few weeks away from going to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Can you explain what it was like for you in your first playoff experience?
Desharnais: It was crazy. The first game was nuts. The first game, my parents were there. And I was so happy that they could make it. But just the national anthem, the singer in the stands, and everyone jumping in. I mean, I remember on the bench, I had chills. It was just such a crazy feeling that you hear about it, you see it.  You see it on TV. I saw it.  The amount of Habs games I’ve watched, the playoffs games. And it was so electric, so fun. But then it was my time. It was my time to actually live it, to go through it. And it was so fun.
Obviously, there was some ups and downs, some learning experiences. But I’m very excited for these playoffs, because I feel like I got a lot more experience now. And I feel I can have a little bit more of an impact. I can’t wait for playoffs. Having the greasy neck beard and then the long hair, I’m going to look like a caveman.
And thanks to all the fans for donating (fans donated over $2500 when he was on our show). And whoever will donate or share my page, I really appreciate it. It means a lot. And again, I’m not doing this for myself. Money is not coming to me. It’s going to all those families and those kids and needs. And I think it’s a great cause.


Snow Valley Aerial Park is located inside Rainbow Valley Campground.  It has a 15 meter high rope aerial trekking tower with over 100 challenges on three levels.  It was Canada’s first tower of it’s kind back in 2017 and since then we’ve added Whitemud Creek Mining company, Snow Valley Target and Mini Golf and Creekside Eats!  18 holes of Mini Golf debuts this season and is sure to provide as much family fun as the other attractions have up until now.  Snow Valley Aerial Park runs May 31 to September 30.

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