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It takes a village to build a future NHLer

'We are extremely proud of Ben and what he has accomplished'
Ben Gaudreau 6 (Natalie Shaver)
The Sarnia Sting's Ben Gaudreau autographs a young fan's helmet. Photo by Natalie Shaver.

Rob Gaudreau is a quiet and unassuming hockey parent who finds his spot in the rink, and watches his son Ben do his thing.  

Every parent's hockey dream is to get their son or daughter on the right path to success. 

For Rob and his wife Charlotte, the dream came true last Saturday when the San Jose Sharks selected their son Ben Gaudreau in the third round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft which took place online due to COVID-19. 

"It felt great," admitted Rob.  

"I was very happy for him and proud of what he has accomplished."

See related: Gaudreau goes to the Sharks 

Rob Gaudreau says the dream of his son making it to the NHL started to become more realistic during Ben's OHL Draft year when he was selected in the first round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, seventh overall by the Sarnia Sting.  

"The chance of him being an NHL draft pick seemed real while speaking to the scouts and staff of the OHL teams preparing for the OHL draft," said Rob.

"Ben always worked hard at being a goalie and was incredibly fortunate that Todd Robillard took him under his wing at an early age. I think Ben was about 7 when he started going to Todd’s goalie school and Todd always felt that Ben had potential."

Todd Robillard, who has been coaching goaltenders in the North Bay for more than a decade.

Robillard believes it was in Major Atom of Minor Peewee when he started to realize Ben was going to be something special. 

"When Rob and Charlotte began taking him south to play summer hockey with Southern Ontario Elite Teams, it became clearer that he could be an elite goalie," recalls Robillard.  

"When he played with the East Coast Selects (France and Pittsburgh)  traveling overseas that hockey people outside of Northern Ontario began following his development which led to better opportunities for him (Canada Winter Games, Hockey Canada U17 and U18) to show what he could do playing against other elite players.

"I think that from an early age, the things that set him apart from others were Ben’s mobility, work ethic, competitiveness, and visual attachment. From there he continued making gains and putting in the work to round his game. As of late, he’s made great gains with his hands."

The Gaudreau's credit the help of goalie coaching but they also give a big "Shout Out" to the North Bay and East Ferris communities for supporting Ben throughout his minor hockey career. 

"We are extremely proud of Ben and what he has accomplished," noted Rob.  

"I feel that we also have to acknowledge the community that helped get him to where he is starting from the East Ferris Vipers all the way to the Great North Midget League."

For Robillard, the relationship he has built with the Gaudreau's is a lifelong one.  

"I was extremely proud and happy for Ben and his family," admitted Robillard.

"He’s always been a kid that worked extremely hard when he was on the ice and always wanted more. From an early age, Ben and Andrew (my son) began playing hockey together, traveling to tournaments and to goalies schools that I would do across the area. Our families became really close and even now that Andrew doesn’t play hockey anymore, he and Ben remain close friends as do Rob and Charlotte and Audrey and I. So it’s a very different dynamic than just a player/coach relationship."

While Gaudreau had opportunities to leave the North Bay area at an earlier age, he made the choice of sticking around all the away to midget U16 in his area. 

See related: Trappers finish perfect; take home championship

Rob felt that was a move that has paid off thanks in part to an amazing unbeaten Great North Midget League season with the Major Midget AAA Trappers..

"We did choose to keep Ben in North Bay because we had the opportunity to play with an incredible group of young men coached by Mike Stockfish," Rob recalls.   

"This was arguably one of the best teams ever with one of North Bay’s best coaches. It meant being able to play in an older age group which was crucial for his development. We were very happy that Ben was allowed to do this."

Gaudreau, who won a gold medal with Team Canada at the U18s this spring, is taking his newfound fame in stride by not letting it go to his head.   

The thoughtful big netminder is always willing to sign autographs for his fans in North Bay, Sarnia, or now in San Jose.  

Being humble is something his dad has always stressed to his son. 

"We have always believed in giving back," said Rob.  

"Ben has a real connection with his fans in Sarnia and helps out with the Sarnia Sting community events whenever possible. Nobody gets to the level that he is at without help from a lot of people. Having “fame” is a great opportunity to pay back some of the things people did for you."

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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