When Pascal Rhéaume watches his son Nick play, he says it is almost like looking in a mirror.
Pascal played 17 years of professional hockey, culminating in a Stanley Cup championship in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils. Nick is in his first BCHL season where he has 14 points in 17 games for the Prince George Spruce Kings.
“If you look at Nick, the way he skates and the way he plays, it’s me,” said Pascal. “All of my three kids skate exactly like me. I look at Nick and the way he stands on the ice, the way he moves, the way he shoots, it feels like I’m watching myself.”
At the height of his NHL career, Pascal was known as an elite defensive player who specialized in faceoffs and could chip in on offence when called upon. Although Nick was too young to remember most of his father’s playing career, he was just a year old when he won his Cup with the Devils, from watching old clips of his dad, he agrees that they are very much alike.
“I’m building my own identity, but it always comes back to how he would play,” said Nick. “He’s watching my games and says the stuff that I do is similar to him as well. I was young, but watching videos, it’s funny how we all look alike on the ice.”
While Pascal is well-known in the hockey world, the most famous Rhéaume would have to be Nick’s aunt Manon, who is one of the most recognizable names in women’s hockey history. Manon backstopped Canada’s women’s team as a goalie multiple times, including during the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano. She also played men’s professional hockey for years.
She is best known as first female to ever play in an NHL game when she started a preseason contest for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. She would go on to get another invite to Lightning camp the following season and play in a second exhibition game.
Manon agrees with the assessment that Nick and Pascal are identical on the ice, but the similarities do not stop there.
“My mom and I always talk about how they can be so similar, off the ice too in how they do things,” said Manon. “It’s funny. It’s almost like seeing my brother skating sometimes, especially since Nick grew a lot. I think he went through the same thing as my brother did. Pascal was really small his first year Bantam, to the point where you never thought he’d make it, but then he grew so much within a year and ended up being 6-foot-2. He was a late bloomer which I think is a lot like Nick.”
Coming from a family so deeply ingrained in hockey, it is no surprise that Nick took to playing right away. Not only did he have his father and his aunt to look to as examples, he also has his two older sisters Alexane and Logane who both started at a young age and went on to play at a high level. Alexane recently finished her junior season playing NCAA Division I women’s hockey at Mercyhurst University and Logane played four years at the University of Montreal.
“In our family, my brothers and I were all playing at a young age and if we weren’t playing, we were at one of our sibling’s games,” said Manon. “We didn’t know any better than to be at the rink seven days a week. I think it trickled down to all three of [Pascal’s] kids.
When Manon got her shot to play with the Lightning, beyond the fact that it was a monumental moment in women’s hockey, it was a major source of pride for the Rhéaume family. Pascal looks back on that time and remembers how impressed he was at how she handled herself.
“My sister always had to be stronger than everybody else, especially mentally,” he said. “She made it because of her discipline. For her, it was a no-brainer to go. It was a chance of a lifetime. She always worked harder than everybody else. To make it to that point, my sister is kind of a role model. There was never a jealousy between me and my sister.”
“I’m proud of her. Even after almost 30 years, Manon’s name is still around. It’s a good thing she did for women’s hockey.”
Not only did Manon inspire a new generation of women’s hockey players, including her own nieces, she inspired many on the men’s side as well.
“Seeing my aunt play hockey is an inspiration and a source of motivation,” said Nick. “For her, going to play hockey with the guys is probably 10 times harder than what I’m going through right now. Following my sisters as well, Alexane plays Division I hockey right now. Logane also played college hockey. That’s my goal right now, so I want to follow in their footsteps.”
These days, Pascal is able to watch his son’s games closely online. Since he retired from playing, the 47-year-old has gotten into coaching at various levels, including the American Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
When he watches Nick play, he can’t help but view things through his coach’s lens.
“Unfortunately, I’m watching him as a coach and as a tough dad,” said Pascal. “I’m not too tough with him, but I know that sometimes I can be too hard where I always look at what he has to improve on. Right now, I see when he makes good plays and when he does good little things. I’m at the point where I can honestly tell my son great game. You did this well, but you have to improve on this. There’s always a way to talk to your son the right where he doesn’t get mad at you or not want to call you anymore.”
For Nick, although he may not always like it, he accepts the advice from his father because he knows it’s coming from a good place. Pascal enjoyed a long and successful career in hockey and only wants his son to accomplish the same thing.
From observing and listening to his dad, Nick knows what it takes to be successful at the highest level and wants to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.
“Growing up in the hockey world, being around a lot of hockey players and going to see my dad play, the dream of becoming a hockey player was there at a really young age,” said Nick. “When you see it and it’s in front of you, that makes you want to realize that dream even more.”