Getting to know: Marc-Olivier Vallerand
Marc-Olivier started his junior career in Quebec City, a 2 ½ hour drive from his home town of Longeuil where he was coached by 4x Stanley Cup winning net-minder and Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy.
The QJMHL has a reputation for producing high-scoring offensive talent, and although Vallerand would end his junior career just shy of a point per game it was his two-way play that earned the trust of Coach Roy. The pinnacle of this trust was the #15’s senior year where coming off the back of a career season, where he scored 34 goals and added 41 assists, he was named team captain. Roy went on the record to say of his new leader:
"What he represents is a guy who works hard both offensively and defensively. If there was a guy I know I can count on, it's Marc-Olivier Vallerand in the defensive zone. His strength is to use his skating and speed to cause trouble for defencemen.”
The season he captained Quebec was also the year another Blaze winger, Danick Paquette joined the Ramparts. The two future Blaze stars would become line-mates alongside Kelsey Tessier who plied his trade in Austria last season. Paquette and Vallerand were a high intense duo, that played with an edge akin to their superstar coach. Marc-Olivier, keen to lead by example summarised:
"The points are a bonus. There are nine other guys in the attack who are capable of doing so. In a team, it takes different roles and I think I am able to bring a different role to help the team. That is the most important… I think Paquette and I are the two most likely to upset the other team (for example)."
After his senior year in the ‘Q’, Vallerand headed south, trading his home province for Greenville South Carolina and the newly formed ‘Road Warriors.’ The gutsy French Canadian iced 81 times in his rookie year and led his team with 33 regular season and playoff goals. In addition to this, the winger posted 27 assists and finished 3rd for points in the conference Championship winning team.
Greenville, however were to be eliminated in round 2 of the Kelly Cup playoffs to the Wheeling Nailers. It was a successful season for the 1st year Canadian who led all rookies in goals and was a replacement starter at the All-Star game that year. Of his Rookie year Vallerand commented:
"I came in not knowing what to expect, but as my confidence grew I was able to help the team win some games…Being able to experience the All-Star Game too was great!"
His coach Dean Stork was enamoured by the work ethic and desire to win of the rookie:
"He has a great personality, great work ethic and is a great role model, he really wants to work hard… you can see that desire every-time he steps on the ice."
Vallerand would spend the best part of the next two seasons in Greenville, sharing the ice with Blaze returnee Brett Robinson during the 2011/12 campaign. His point production, including leading the team in 2012/13, caught the eye of many, earning him call-ups to the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Rockford Ice Hogs and Norfolk Admirals.
Robinson, the recently appointed Blaze Player-Assistant Coach remembers sharing the ice with Vallerand fondly:
"Vallerand is a very exciting signing for us. He loves to score goals and will be lethal on the powerplay with his great shot and quick release. But, he also fills so many other areas. He will compete every game and plays with an edge. He has deceptive speed which makes it tough on the opposition defence and is always a threat on the penalty-kill. On top off all that he is a great teammate and committed to winning more than anything else. He will be a huge part of our success this season."
After his most successful professional season of 12/13, Vallerand decided to make his first trip over to Europe signing with the Odense Bulldogs in the Danish Metal Ligaen, where coach of the time Par Johansson said of his new signing:
"We've been looking for a goal scorer as the last piece in the squad. An ambitious player who would like to continue his career and use Odense as a leap for major leagues. We have found that in Vallerand, which I think will contribute very well to Danish level."
However, Vallerand would not spend long in Denmark, scoring 12 points in 11 games, he decided to return to familiar pastures and joined the re-branded Greenville Swamp Rabbits. It was a good regular season for Vallerand, finishing 2nd on the team in goals with 26 and 3rd in points with 56.
Vallerand returned to the continent in 2014/15 signing in the Italian Serie A with newly promoted Eppan/Appiano where he hit a purple patch going on to lead the league in goals with 32 and adding 25 assists. He also led his team in points.
Summer came and with offers from Italy particularly not quite meeting expectations, the French Canadian took a gamble, signing in his home province of Quebec for the Thetford Assurancia of the LNAH whilst awaiting an inviting offer from Europe. His patience was rewarded, signing in Chaux-de-Fonds of the Swiss B League where he said at the time:
"I am really very happy with my fate… It is an opportunity I could not miss. I had already refused an offer from Italy and we were in discussion with the Hamburg team in Germany, when my agent told me that HC La Chaux-de-Fonds was looking for a foreign forward because of various injuries in the run-up to the playoffs. At first, I took it for a rumour among others, but when it became more serious, Chaux-de-Fonds became my best destination. It's a 2nd Division club but it's a golden opportunity to show what I can do and negotiate a long-term contract with them or another team."
Vallerand’s time spent in Switzerland though was brief and despite the jump in level between the LNAH and the Swiss B league, he was able to add 5 points in 5 games for La Chaux-du-Fonds.
Last season for Vallerand was spent with the Bolzano Foxes of the EBEL (Austrian 1st league) where he posted 27 points as the team finished 4th in the regular season and reached the semi-finals of the playoffs.
Now joining Coventry, the 28-year-old is set to be an exciting newcomer to the Elite League describing himself as a player who will give his heart out on the ice.
"People describe me as a relatively complete player. I skate well, have a pretty good shot, read the game well and play both ways. I have always played five on five and important roles on both the powerplay and penalty-kill."
See Marc-Olivier Vallerand make his Blaze debut at the Skydome Arena on Wednesday 23rd August vs. Manchester Storm (7.30pm).
Article by Ed Kimberley