Noah Juulsen | “I never felt like hockey anymore”
(Laval) The number 50 is symbolic in hockey. The 50-goal mark remains the yardstick that distinguishes true snipers from great scorers.
For Noah Juulsen, the number has an entirely different meaning. Last season, the Canadiens’ 2015 first-round pick hit 50… in the games played column. For a man who came back from today, it was no small feat.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to play a full season, be with the guys and start feeling like a hockey player again. It’s been an incredible year,” said Juulsen, who met after morning practice with the Abbotsford Canucks, for Wednesday night’s matchup against the Rockets.
Last year, Juulsen played 50 games with Abbotsford, eight more with the big club, the Vancouver Canucks. “I missed one weekend because I was sick. Otherwise, I have been healthy all year,” he proudly said.
To understand his joy, you have to go back to November 19, 2018, the day he was hit not once, but twice in the same eye during a match. Recurring migraine problems derailed a good career. His responsibilities are increasing, during the match before the incident, he was even 20 minutes at work by Claude Julien. Check out his number of games played over the years.
Matches played by Noah Juulsen
- 2018-19: 24 (including 21 in the NHL)
- 2019-20: 13 (all in American League)
- 2020-2021: 9 (including 4 in the NHL)
- Total: 46
Last season alone, he therefore played more than the previous three campaigns combined. During these three years, Juulsen moped.
We are hockey players, but off the ice, we have lives. Off the ice, I didn’t feel like myself. There was a long period where I wasn’t feeling well. I never felt like hockey anymore.
An active player who says he doesn’t “like” hockey anymore is pretty rare. Some have reached levels of discouragement, but words rarely go that far.
“The two and a half years that I missed, it was very hard mentally. It’s hard as a player, but also as a person. Many people expect you to help your team, to make a difference. When you come and things don’t go your way, it’s hard. »
The transaction that changes everything
Without a kind GM, Juulsen could continue to think last season.
In the fall of 2021, he participated in the camp of the Florida Panthers, who collected him on waivers when the Canadians submitted him there last winter. Except Juulsen arrived with very little mileage on his body. 1eh October, it is subject to the ballot; ignored, he was reduced the next day.
The problem: Last year’s Panthers’ farm club, the Charlotte Checkers, is in joint custody with the Seattle Kraken, which only has its own subsidiary this fall. This means that there will be too much hope, and that there is no room for everyone, every night.
A few days after Juulsen’s firing, the Canucks asked. Panthers GM Bill Zito immediately contacted his player to explain the situation to him. A nice attention to a player who has no special status within the team.
Bill was very good to me. He was fair and told me what was going on. When he talked to me about the trade, he warned me that since we were in the school club together in Seattle, I might not be at practice every day.
This is still a fragile Juulsen thinking. “I should take a day to think about it. I don’t know where I am in my career. »
He finally took the plunge and a year later has no regrets. “It’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” said the British Columbian, who was playing at home.
Health is still standing. He was playing his ninth game of the season with Abbotsford on Wednesday, and had two games in Vancouver.
“He’s not a guy who asks, he’s a guy who gives,” boasted his head coach Jeremy Colliton. We’re using him now on the power play because he’s a good shot. But his great strength is five on five, to play tough minutes, to drain penalties, to block shots. »
The links to Montreal were clearly severed. When asked who he keeps in touch with, he named Michael McCarron, Charlie Lindgren and Gustav Olofsson, all of whom play elsewhere.
“I’m grateful that the Canadian took a chance on me. The first year, it went well, then I got injured the next year. The fans have been good to me. But that’s in the past. It was a good start to the season for me, as a player and as a person. »