Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand share a unique blend of rivalry and friendship.
Long-time friends off the ice, the two forwards have never been closer – and more successful – on the ice.
Stand-outs as 15-year-olds with the Grenadiers de Châteauguay of the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec last year, the duo finished one-two in regular
season and playoff scoring, helping the Grenadiers win the LHMAAAQ championship and reach the TELUS Cup gold medal game for the second year in a row.
The numbers were almost identical – Comtois’ 56 points just edged out Morand’s 55 in the regular season, and his 31 in the playoffs were just a single
point better than Morand.
But when the TELUS Cup run ended, the friendly rivalry between the two heated up.
Morand finally put himself ahead of Comtois at the QMJHL Entry Draft in June, going second overall to the Titan d’Acadie-Bathurst. Comtois wasn’t far
behind, going to the Tigres de Victoriaville one pick later.
Always being on each other’s heels – both on the score sheet, in practice and during the draft – meant the two forwards naturally fostered a healthy and
friendly competition between themselves.
“When we were reunited last season [as linemates], we immediately clicked,” remembers Morand. “We kept on progressing together and our chemistry built up
during the year.”
“I think it’s our chemistry on the ice that led to our friendship off the ice,” Comtois adds. “By going to school together and hanging out outside of
hockey, we developed a strong bond. Even if we’re not playing together this season and we live far apart, we still talk to each other.”
And although the pair aren’t teammates for the first time in three seasons – playing almost 700 kilometres apart – they are getting at least one more
chance to show what they can do together.
Morand and Comtois have been reunited with Canada Red at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (a third former Grenadier, goaltender Kyle Jessiman, is
also on the Red roster), giving them a chance to excel on the international stage with a friendly face by their side.
“It’s comforting to take part in an international tournament with a close friend,” Morand says. “We have established a chemistry before, so there’s no
doubt it feels good to be with Max again. We always find a way to perform and have fun.”
When the three Team Canada rosters were announced Oct. 19, Morand was the one who texted the news to Comtois, who was more than happy to learn they would
be playing together during the tournament.
“It’s an amazing feeling and a dream come true for both of us,” says Comtois. “If anyone would have told us that we would end up following one another on
such similar paths, I don’t think we would have believed them. I’m really glad to be sharing all of this with him.”
And, of course, the pair needed to be one-two in something else before they arrived in northern B.C.; they rank first and second in CHL scoring among all
Canadian skaters participating in the tournament – Morand’s 21 points are seven better than Comtois.
But as they step on the ice wearing Team Canada colours, they can’t help but be reminded of their loss to the Toronto Young Nationals last April with
Canada’s National Midget Championship on the line; a loss that will, in some small part, help motivate them in the chase for U17 gold.
“Both events are completely different. This time around, we’re playing for gold, but also for the whole country,” Comtois says. “It adds a certain
pressure, but at the same time it’s exciting to share it with Antoine and the others. Since we both hate losing, in a way it’s a chance for us to get our
revenge after last year.”
“Of course, the TELUS Cup gave us a good glimpse of the stakes that lie ahead of us [for the rest of our careers],” Morand adds. “Losing the final had an
impact on us; we’re winners and, this year, we’re going to give it our all once again in order to win the gold medal.”
While they’re only 16 years old, the two friends have already had their share of successes. But standing on the blue-line, side by side, with a gold medal
around their necks? That would be the best success of all.