Jr. Ducks’ Pee Wee AAA1 team readies for Quebec
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Jean Labbe grew up in Montreal and played in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament as a youth, but the longtime coach has never stood behind the bench at the legendary event.
That will change in February when his Anaheim Jr. Ducks Pee Wee AAA1 team takes the ice in Quebec City.
“I’m very excited to get back there as a coach,” Labbe said. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players.
“There will be so many new things for kids who’ve grown up in Southern California – snow, a different language, getting to play hockey outside and living with billet families.”
This is the 14th year the Jr. Ducks have sent a team to Quebec, and Labbe said the club is grateful for the opportunity.
“The (Anaheim) Ducks provide winter jackets for the players and help chip in some of the costs, but a lot falls on the parents, and it’s a 10-day tournament so it’s expensive,” he said. “The Ducks do a good job taking care of billet families as well, sending Ducks memorabilia.
“We’re fortunate to be able to do it and we want to represent the club well.”
The Jr. Ducks roster includes forwards Luke Ellis, Naveen Gupta, Joshua Hyden, Anthony Jurcic, Josh Lee, Rowen Lin, Benjamin Palmersheim, Samir Panwar and Hayden Rand; defensemen Xander Kane, Tyler Lee, Logan Okanski, Brandon Plaga, Ross Roloson and Braden Shetland; and goaltenders Lucas Massie and Sandrine Ponnath.
It’s the first year for many of them playing together, but “we’re starting to bond and figure stuff out,” Labbe said.
Labbe said his players are in for an experience of a lifetime, particularly when they step on the ice for the first time at Colisée de Québec.
“When you first walk on the ice, there’s thousands of fans in the stands,” he said. “It’s an NHL arena, and all you see is people everywhere.
“As a 12-year-old kid, it’s an eye-opener. I remember we signed Frisbees and would throw them into the crowd the first time we came through the tunnel.
“The team will meet kids from all kinds of countries – all of that makes it a special experience.”
– Chris Bayee