Maxime Collette, the leading scorer in the Capital Region Junior Hockey League wanted to accomplish two things this spring.
He wanted to lead his St. Malo Warriors to the CRJHL championship and then he wanted the chance to help the Winkler Flyers win the Manitoba Junior Hockey League title.
He was on his way to accomplishing both when the phone call came. The phone call through the MJHL from Hockey Canada telling every sanctioned league and team in the country that the COVID-19 pandemic had put an end to amateur hockey from sea to shining sea.
“Yeah, well it was pretty disappointing,” said Collette with shrug. “But we know it’s all you can do right now. It’s more important that everybody stays safe and healthy. We can play hockey again next year.
“But I would be lying if I didn’t say it was disappointing. We (St. Malo) really wanted to play Selkirk in the (CRJHL) final. We had a great rivalry all season. They beat us three times and we beat them twice and almost all the games were close. I think it would have been a great final.
“And I was pretty excited about getting called up to Winkler for the series against Virden. They had a few injuries and I was supposed to be a game time decision in Virden. I took my equipment and we got out there, but the guy I was supposed to fill in for was OK, so he played, but I still really enjoyed the bus ride to Virden and being part of the team. It was a great experience. I got to practice with the Flyers and I might have had a chance to play at some point during the playoffs, but I guess we have to wait until next year.”
A lot of good young players were robbed of championship opportunities this spring, but not many were robbed of two potential chances.
And for Collette, the rookie CRJHL All-Star and CRJHL leading scorer, it was especially disappointing after the tremendous regular season he’d just completed.
Collette, the former star at Morris High School, had 36 goals and 61 points in 32 games to lead the Warriors into second place in the CRJHL, just two points back of defending champion Selkirk. He played well enough to earn a call from Winkler coach Kelvin Cech, the MJHL Coach of the Year, and almost got into a playoff game against the Oil Capitals.
For the 18-year-old, first-year junior player, it was a disappointing way to end a dream season.
“I was really disappointed, but I would hope I’ll get a chance to play in Winkler next season,” he said. “If I don’t, I’ll enjoy playing for my dad (Warriors head coach Ralph Collette) in my hometown with St. Malo.
“The goal is always to play at as high a level as you can and so my goal is to play for Winkler. Playing for Coach Cech was a great experience. He was a good guy to talk to and learn from. I really enjoyed the brief time I had there.”
Maxime grew up in St. Malo and after playing Double A Bantam in Grade 9, he played three years at Morris High School and loved every minute of the experience.
“Playing high school hockey was one of the best things that I’ve ever done,” said Collette, who had 23 goals and 45 points in 24 games during his Grade 12 year. “It was really special because I got to play with my brother Jeremie on a championship team. That’s something kids don’t always have the chance to do.”
While playing at Morris High, Collette also suited up as an AP with the Warriors and had three goals and five points in seven games in the CRJHL in 2018-19. But that was only a taste of what was to come. This season, he was the best player in Jr. B hockey although he’ll be the first to admit that his success had a lot to do with his linemates Alex Murray and Christian Hince.
“I definitely believe it was the best line in the league,” said St. Malo coach Ralph Collette. “It’s not too often you see a line with so much skill and scoring ability. Max won the scoring title, but Murray was third in scoring and Hince was fourth. These guys created a lot of excitement in our community.”
These days, Collette is like most everyone else – stuck at home.
“There isn’t much you can do,” he said. “I get outside occasionally to shoot a few pucks. Work is closed, so I’ve been at home doing my own thing. That and trying to get the government on the phone so I can get my unemployment cheque. That hasn’t been easy with millions of other people trying to get their cheques, as well.
“But what can you do? You gotta just stay home and make sure you do your part so that everyone says safe.”