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Goalie wasn’t sold initially on coming to P.E.I. to play junior hockey but it quickly became a second home and a place he returns to every off-season
Antoine Bibeau was scared.
He was a 17-year-old Victoriaville, Que., native who didn't speak English and had just been traded to the P.E.I. Rocket. He would be nine hours from home and have to take online school courses to continue his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) career.
“It was scary,” he recalled Thursday. “I thought about it and I was debating not coming, but it was the best decision I ever made.”
Bibeau and Islander Erin McLeod are engaged to be married next summer. They are in the process of buying a home and setting down roots in P.E.I., where Bibeau has been coming back to during the off-season for a few years after his AHL season is done.
“I would never had thought I would meet the love of my life (here during my junior career),” Bibeau said. “I would never had expected that. It’s crazy how life works out sometimes.”
Bibeau credited head coach Gordie Dwyer and assistant coach Corrado Micalef, who are both bilingual, with helping him adjust to his new surroundings in his first year with the Rocket.
“The coaching staff, from top to bottom, and the whole organization, is just amazing, (including) the training staff Spider (Andrew MacNeill) and Kev (Elliott) were unreal. It’s the best years of your life in junior.”
Bibeau backed up Maxime Lagace that first season before earning the No. 1 spot in 2012-13 and pushing Val-d’Or to triple overtime in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs in the final game of the Rocket.
He played the first half of the 2013-14 season with the rebranded Charlottetown Islanders before being traded to Val-d’Or.
“I didn't want to get traded,” Bibeau said. “I remember I was pretty disappointed when I got traded but, looking back on it, it was probably the best thing to ever happen to me.”
Bibeau helped the Foreurs win the President Cup as QMJHL champs.
“I think that’s where I really showed everyone what I was capable of,” Bibeau said.
They lost in triple overtime of the semifinal at the Memorial Cup to the eventual champs, the Edmonton Oil Kings. Bibeau was named the tournament’s top goalie.
He turned pro the following season with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. He spent three seasons there and made two appearances with the storied NHL franchise.
The following year he signed with the San Jose Sharks and has played the past two seasons with their AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda.
He had a familiar voice on the coaching staff with the Barracuda this year in former Rocket fan favourite Jimmy Bonneau. The Baie-Comeau, Que., native would skate with the Rocket in preparation for his pro camps during Bibeau’s time in Charlottetown. The two trained together after Bibeau turned pro.
“It was awesome. He’s a great coach. He’s an amazing guy,” Bibeau said. “As a coach, he’s . . . able to be serious and be really detailed in his work, but also make it fun for the players so the guys really buy in.”
Bibeau is entering the final year of his contract with the Sharks.
He leaves Sept. 5 for NHL training camp and said he is in the best shape of his life.
“My goal is to make the team,” he said after an on-ice session with other pros Thursday in Pownal. “I think I’m at that point in my career. . . I’ve done a lot in my five years in the American league, so I think I am ready to go now and be in the NHL.”
Need to know
Who – A 25-year-old goalie who played junior hockey in Charlottetown.
Hometown – Victoriaville, Que.
Nickname – Bibs.
Trades – The Gatineau Olympiques traded Bibeau to the P.E.I. Rocket in August 2011 for a fourth-round pick in 2013. The Rocket became the Charlottetown Islanders in 2013 and began a rebuild that saw the franchise trade Bibeau and an eighth-round pick in 2015 to the Val-d’Or Foreurs for a first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2014.
Season League GP W L T GAA SAV%
2018-19 AHL 35 16 18 3 2.89 .904
2017-18 AHL 43 23 14 2 2.37 .919
2016-17 AHL 32 13 14 1 3.08 .894
2016-17 NHL 2 1 1 0 1.99 .927
Did you know? Bibeau played in the AHL all-star game in 2018.