WINNIPEG, MB. - Former Manitoba Moose and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Alfie Michaud has always been considered one of the best goalies ever produced in Selkirk, Man. Heck, make that all of Manitoba. But not even Alfie himself thought he’d take hockey has far as he has. Heck, after a 15-year pro career, Michaud’s hockey life is still going strong. This year, he’s the new staff Assistant Coach at the University of Maine.
Selkirk’s Alfie Michaud didn’t have the greatest professional hockey career of all time, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a good one.
After all, he played only two games in net with the Vancouver Canucks in 1999-2000 and then played 32 for the Moose in 2001-02. However, in Europe, he was a goaltending star and that’s where he strung together most of the 15 seasons he enjoyed as a professional hockey player.
Eventually, Michaud hung up the pads in 2013. When he retired, he moved to Maine and intended to live quietly with his family on a rather large acreage.
Not surprisingly, it would be very easy to argue that Michaud, who just turned 41, hasn’t hung up the pads at all. The Selkirk product from Berens River First Nation, is probably more involved with hockey now than he was when he played pro. In fact, if you want to find Alfie in the spring, he’ll likely be at one of dozens of big money First Nations’ Tournaments across Western Canada.
“I’ve been pretty blessed,” said Michaud, who went from volunteer coach at the University of Maine last season to full-time assistant with the Black Bears this year. “Out of retirement in 2014, I walked into a job with the Arizona Coyotes,” Michaud explained. “I was the assistant goalie coach with the Coyotes which meant that I was the head goalie coach with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates, in Portland Maine.
“Then, a couple of years ago, I took a year off from coaching and just focused on my passion – Dreamcatcher’s Hockey. It’s a goalie school and I mentor young First Nation’s kids in Maine. I also did a lot of travelling to First Nation communities to work with young goaltenders.”
During the past few years, his original desire to retire quietly in the back woods of Maine was interrupted by a succession of hockey opportunities.
“I was talking to some NHL teams, but this Maine job was too perfect for me,” he admitted. “In the meantime, I’m working with Reggie and Jamie Leach and Shoot-to-Score Hockey. I’m their goalie development guy. I’ve also been working with John Chabot and Denny Lambert with Hit the Ice (the APTN Hockey Show) and I’m still playing a bit.
“I’m also part owner of Rise Sport Testing. We’re a multi-sport testing company that provides tangible data to measure sport-specific skills for athletes. We do combines and individual sport testing. I’m partners with my wife and Kyle Prystupa, another aboriginal guy with a hockey background, and this is definitely something we’re working hard on and trying to push.”
Michaud was born and raised in Selkirk and didn’t leave until he went to Saskatchewan to play Midget Triple A hockey.
“I lived in Selkirk in a neighborhood that you would have to say was a ‘lower class’ neighborhood,” Michaud said. “But there were probably 100 kids on my street. As long as I can remember I just wanted to play hockey.
“We had a rink at the schoolyard and we were always there. They actually called our street Sesame Street because of all the kids on it. We had kids aged 6-16 and we always out there playing ice hockey or ball hockey or whatever hockey. I look back at those memories fondly, for sure.”
He said that his first brush with organized hockey was “late.”
“I was nine-years-old and I played for the Selkirk Jets,” he said with a laugh. “I remember distinctly that my dad wrote on the calendar on the fridge, ‘Jets hockey 7 o’clock,’ and I was so excited. I thought I was going to Winnipeg for a Jets game. Then he grabbed my gear and said we were going to play and I was disappointed at first, but I got my Selkirk Jets jersey, it was one of those great days. I was really excited. It was the coolest thing.
“Then at 10, I made the travelling team and it really started taking off for me. I played all my minor hockey in Selkirk – peewee, bantam and a year of midget – with the Selkirk Fishermen and then I went to Saskatchewan at 16 to play junior for the Lebret Eagles.
“I didn’t make the junior team, but I stayed and played Double A midget and then made the junior club the next year as a 17-year-old. I played two years in Lebret and got my scholarship to Maine, played three years there and won a national championship (he went 28-6-3 with a 2.32 GAA) and then had a nice 15-year pro career.”
Hockey has been very good to a guy who says he grew up on the “other side of the tracks.” To this day, he’s one of the most influential coaches in the game – especially among First Nation’s kids on both sides of the border.
Head Coach Red Gendron at Maine was thrilled to offer the assistant coaching role to Michaud last spring.
"We’re extremely pleased to have Coach Michaud join our staff full-time," Gendron said. "He brings outstanding knowledge of the game and also exceptional skill as a goalie coach. Given his roots in Western Canada, he will be very valuable to our recruiting efforts in that region, as well. As a former player here at UMaine, his legacy is legendary."
For Selkirk’s Alfie Michaud, hockey is just as much a part of him today as it was when he played his first pick-up game on “Sesame Street” in Selkirk.
Scott Taylor for The Manitoba Post
Photos courtesy Alfie Michaud