The lapel pin on Pascal Vincent’s finely-tailored suit proudly displays the logo of the Montreal Junior as he mingles at the QMJHL draft festivities in Glace Bay.
He is outwardly calm in his first return to the Sydney area since last month’s awkward separation from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, but his voice has a sombre tone you wouldn’t expect from a man who just landed what could be called his dream job.
Vincent has a lot of emotion bottled up inside.
“It’s not my choice to be like this,” the 36-year-old says quietly. “There is so much I want to say.”
He can’t be as candid as he would like because the league and lawyers are still trying to determine exactly what happened when he left Cape Breton with a year left on his contract. The Screaming Eagles insist he breached his contract; the Junior say he was granted a release.
Vincent spent nine years in Cape Breton as head coach, and also served as general manager for the last seven. But Montreal is home for him. He is from Laval, Que., and won a QMJHL title as a player with Verdun College-Francais in 1991-92.
He confers briefly with Montreal ownership in the lobby of the Savoy Theatre after the draft’s top prospects presentation to get approval to break a silence he has kept since May 21, the day the Junior announced they had hired him.
“It’s going back home,” Vincent says of his new job, which puts him much closer to family and friends.
“The people in Sydney are unbelievable fans and the one thing I’ve learned over the years is that they are family people,” he says. “That’s why I am confident they will understand why I chose, for the first time in my life, family over business.”
This isn’t easy for him, returning to the city where his blood, sweat and tears have built the Screaming Eagles into a successful franchise. He is likely to get a nasty reception during Saturday’s draft at Centre 200.
There is sadness in his eyes when he considers that possibility.
“It would not be easy,” he says. “But when you decide to be a coach and a part of a hockey team, you have to understand you will be open to critics. They’re allowed to do what they want to do, and as a coach and GM, you have to live with that.”
Commissioner Gilles Courteau describes the situation as “he-said you-said I-did you-did,” and says he will be “making an announcement” on the matter on Saturday. Compensation, however, does not appear on the table.
“We cannot talk about compensation because there is no compensation (in the Q),” he says.
Vincent has his hands full at the draft. He is in trade talks with Quebec Remparts GM Patrick Roy in the hopes of acquiring star forward Angelo Esposito, whose hometown is Montreal and who would no doubt sell a pile of tickets.
But also on his mind is the hope that fans in Sydney will not hold a grudge when everything is said and done.
“I had a great time in Cape Breton,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that things are like this right now. I’m very confident that it will be resolved soon and I’ll be able to move forward, Cape Breton will move forward, and we’ll put this behind us.”
For more coverage of the QMJHL draft, visit Matthew Wuest's Q Files blog at www.metronews.ca/qfiles.