QUEBEC CITY — When Jeremy Gregoire won the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence –a $6,000 bursary to put towards his education – he didn’t think twice about what he was going to do with it.
The captain of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar had won the same award in 2014 and after signing a three-year entry level contract with the Montreal Canadiens in January, he decided to help someone else. That person was the runner-up, Moncton Wildcats defenceman Dominic Talbot-Tassi.
“I was lucky enough to win two times in a row,” said Gregoire, who earned his CEGEP diploma with an 87 per cent average. “Both times Dominic finished second. It was an honour to have the prize go to him because he’s not only a good hockey player too, but a good student.
“I already have one (bursary), so it was the least I could give him.”
The pair met for the first time at the award presentation last year and have a mutual admiration, both knowing how difficult it is to balance school and hockey.
Talbot-Tassi is planning to continue his studies next year at McGill University, where he will study engineering and play hockey for the Redmen. He was stunned when informed of Gregoire’s generosity.
“It was a surprise for me when I got that call,” said the 21-year-old. “I was so happy. It just shows what kind of a good guy he is - his generosity and his class. I want to say ‘thank you’ to him.”
Talbot-Tassi’s courses will be paid for by the QMJHL’s scholarship program, so the defenceman says he’ll use the money – spread out over three years – to pay for his living expenses while he’s away from home.
In the meantime, Gregoire says he’s putting his school on hold temporarily to pursue his hockey career in the AHL with the Canadiens’ farm team in St. John’s. Regardless, he plans to get a university degree at some point.
“I don’t know how the life of a pro (hockey player) is going to turn out,” said Gregoire, a sixth-round pick in 2013. “I need a Plan B, so for sure if I need to take some courses I will.”
Both Gregoire and Talbot-Tassi said trying to balance school with the rigours of hockey in the QMJHL was difficult. Gregoire said he spent many of the Drakkar’s long bus trips studying and doing his homework.
“We have so much time on the bus it was just a matter of will,” said Gregoire. “No one else was going to open my books so I had to do it myself. I needed to get my mind into it and it was fun to have school because if it doesn’t work well in hockey, I still have school.”
Unlike Gregoire, Talbot-Tassi tried to separate his studies and hockey completely.
“I’m a serious guy when it comes to studying,” said the native of Mascouche, Que. “It was hard but I knew I had to make the sacrifice.
“I like to have fun on the bus with the guys,” added Talbot-Tassi. “Sometimes when everyone was sleeping I had to open my books and study, but I did most of my studying at school, in the library or at my billet’s house.
“My teammates knew I was a good student so they respected me when I’d say, ‘I have to study just leave me alone for a couple hours.'"