Monday, February 10, 2014

Adam Pineault - Player Profile

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. The most compelling player profile of all is the one that tells the story of Adam and Monique Pineault. Even though Adam is playing for the Utah Grizzlies this year his story is one of family, love and hockey so hope you enjoy it. I recently got an update from Monique Pineault and she is doing fine and Adam is recovering from a broken/shattered jaw and hopes to be back in the lineup soon.

Photo by Chip Grail
Adam Pineault
Adam, Monique & Shadow in the Czech Republic where he played 2009-2011
Adam Pineault #41
Birthdate: May 23, 1986
Birthplace: Holyoke, MA
Hometown: Daytona Beach, FL
6' 1" 201 lbs.
Position: Right wing
Shoots: Right
Selected by Columbus Blue Jackets Round #2, 46th overall, 2004 NHL Draft

You seldom walk away from an interview feeling you have really gotten to know a person. My interview with Adam Pineault was one of those occasions where I felt I really got to know him.  His story reminds us all of the highs and lows life brings and what is most important is how you deal with the highs and lows. I hope I can share with you the passion, devotion, love, dedication, determination and positive attitude Adam brings to hockey as well as his family and particularly to his lovely wife, Monique.

Adam was born and raised in Holyoke, Massachusetts. His dad Roland, was an art dealer and collector and his mom, Esther, helped his dad in the business. He is the middle of three children. His older sister Jessica is a big outdoor enthusiast who has run many marathons. His younger sister, Ashley, is currently studying to become a nurse.

Adam's dad, who had pro baseball talent as a pitcher, was unable to pursue his career because of shoulder injuries. Adam's earliest sports memories with his dad is playing catch in his yard. His first hockey recollection is at the age of five his dad taking him to a state park about a mile from his house and skating on double bladed skates. They also attended many Springfield Indians (now the Falcons) games as the arena was only ten minutes from his house.. Springfield was one of the founding teams in the American Hockey league starting in 1926.

Adam started playing organized hockey when he was eight and told me he wasn't great right from the get go as you might think. His parents invested a lot of time and money once they saw how much Adam enjoyed playing hockey. They sacrificed a lot to get him where he is today. A tradition in his family was to have a big feast cooked by his mom on Thanksgiving and then his dad would build a rink on the side of their house. They did this until Adam was thirteen and put a slap shot through the neighbors window.

When he was fourteen Adam tried out for and made the Boston Junior Bruins and was playing with guys much older (18,19, 20). Everyday his dad would pick him up after school, they would drive over an hour to practice and then head back to Holyoke after practice. Adam would do his homework on the way to and from practice. He had such a great year with the Junior Bruin's (30 goals and 35 assists in 57 games while helping them win the league championship) he was offered a full scholarship to Boston College at fourteen years of age.

The next hockey season (2001-2002) Adam was selected for the USA  National Team Development Program (USNTDP). The USNTDP was started in 1996 by USA hockey as a way to identify elite hockey players in the country under the age of 18, and centralize their training. The team trained in Ann  Arbor, Michigan, so at fifteen Adam made his first move to play hockey. It turned out to be a tough time for his mom, Esther, as his older sister, Jessica, left for college one day and Adam left for Michigan the very next day. Having two of your three children leave at the same time was a difficult adjustment for his mom.

Adam played for the national team for two years and what an experience it was. He traveled all around the world playing hockey. His travel included trips to Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia to name a few. They won several tournaments including the Under 17 World Championship in 2002 which took place in Winnipeg. Some of Adam's great memories from his time with the national team was playing against future NHL super stars including Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

In addition to the hockey Adam was busy finishing high school in Michigan. As a testament to his hard work and dedication he managed to graduate from high school a year early.

After his first year with the National Team in 2002, Adam was selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft by the Moncton Wildcats. He had just turned sixteen when he was drafted. So his future was set at sixteen as he could play college hockey for Boston College or junior hockey in Canada for the Moncton Wildcats.

After two years with the national team he made the decision to play college hockey and avail himself of the scholarship at Boston College. Going into that season (2003-2004) the hockey world was anxious to see what Adam could do playing NCAA hockey. Having taken an accelerated program to graduate from high school a year early he entered Boston college as a seventeen year old. Many NHL draft insiders were picking him to be a top 20 pick in the 2004 NHL draft. Unfortunately, the season didn't go as expected for Pineault, as it was tough to out play guys who were twenty three or twenty four going into their senior year. He saw little ice time throughout the season scoring just four goals in 29 games and was unable to crack the line up at all for the playoffs. To make matters worse Boston College refused to release him to play for the United States National Team in the 2004 Under 18 World Championships. In spite of the disappointing hockey season and a tribute to Adam's positive attitude he talks of his year in college as a learning experience and one that was very enjoyable. He was able to have the college experience, living on his own for the first time, especially living in Boston. He had a great time and took advantage of the opportunities. He remembers taking the subway with his buddies to Red Sox games.

After the season Adam made the decision to enter the NHL draft. Because he was under age, the rules at the time required he forfeit his remaining college eligibility. He felt given the situation at Boston College going to play junior hockey in Canada for Moncton in the QMJHL was best for his career.

The 2004 NHL draft  was held on June 26 in Raleigh North, Carolina.  It is especially notable because it was the last NHL event to take place before the beginning of the lockout which cancelled all the games scheduled for the 2004-2005 NHL season. Adam and his family went to Raleigh to attend the draft along with his agent who was NHL great Bobby Orr. He was taken in the second round, 46th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets. "We had a great time, it was such a good experience to see the joy on my parents face, to go up and get the jersey is something you dream about, it is something you don't forget."

So in the fall of 2004 Adam went to Moncton, New Brunswick to play for the Wildcats. He had a great rookie season with 26 goals and 20 assists in 61 games which was third on the team in points. The team, which started out the year as the favorite and did well early in the season had two key injuries (one was former American Bruce Graham who broke his leg) and had a disastrous January which led to the firing of the coach. The team ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs.

If you ask Adam about his greatest experience in hockey thus far, he would say it was his second year (2005-2006) in Moncton. There are many factors that contributed to the great year. A new coach was hired and it was Ted Nolan, a former NHL player and coach who won the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year when he was head coach for the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-1997. "He was the type of coach that could motivate you to work that much harder because you not only wanted to win for yourself, you wanted to win for him. It was unbelievable to have a coach like Ted Nolan in junior hockey. He teaches you a lot about hockey and a lot about life." The entire coaching staff was great. Adam made great friends (his best friend on the team was former American Josh Hepditch). And by the way, the team captain was another former Allen American, Christain Gaudet.

The Wildcats finished the season with the most points in the league going 52-15 and also won the league championship called the President's Cup over the Quebec Remperts. The next step was the Memorial Cup competition. For those not familiar The Memorial Cup is the junior hockey club championship trophy awarded annually to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) champion. It is awarded following a four-team, round-robin tournament between a host team and the champions of the CHL's three member leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and Western Hockey League(WHL). Because Moncton was the host team for the Memorial Cup tournament Quebec as the runner up in the QMJHL also participated.

For the first time in the history of the Memorial Cup, two teams from the QMJHL, Moncton and Quebec would meet in the final. Two weeks after losing to Moncton in the President Cup Final, Quebec prevailed and were crowned Memorial Cup Champions for 2006.

The Wildcats fell one game short of achieving their goal of winning the National Championship but as the disappointment of the final loss faded, players and fans together celebrated a season to remember.

When it comes right down to it hockey wasn't the primary reason the 2005-2006 season was one to remember. It was an interview with  local sports reporter Monique Gauthier that changed his life. Monique, who had a successful career as a model including an appearance in Maxim magazine had recently been hired as a sports reporter for the local TV station. Adam had returned from playing in the World Juniors in 2005. The first time Monique interviewed him was in January 2005 and he was immediately smitten. She was popular with all of the players and as Adam said, "Anytime you got the call Monique asked for an interview you made sure to slick your hair back and tried to look good." While Adam was struck with her he never really approached her until September 2005. He was not playing as he was injured and Monique interviewed him between periods. After the interview they started talking and Adam invited her for a drink after as the players were getting together at a local bar. She said she would "think about it" but Adam wasn't sure if he had a shot. When he got to the bar Monique was there with her best friend Tracy and they started talking.

They started dating in September and by January 2006 things were getting pretty serious. They were enjoying their relationship as well as their careers.. Adam was having a great hockey season (29 goals and 30 assists in 55 games) and Monique was doing well in her career which included covering the hockey team. Adam shared the story about telling his dad he was dating a wonderful woman who was a sports reporter and had appeared in Maxim magazine. His dad didn't believe him. When his family came to Moncton for the Memorial Cup in May the first thing his dad said when he arrived was let me see the Maxim magazine. After the first game Adams dad got to see Monique doing all of the interviews with the players and coaches and as she was one of the main reporters during the Memorial Cup. He introduced them later that night and his dad loved her immediately.

During the summer of 2006 Adam got an apartment with his best friend, Jim Sharrow in Boston and continued his relationship with Monique as they traveled back and forth between Boston and Moncton to see each other. In the fall he headed for the Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch for the 2006-2007 season. Adam and Monique made a decision they didn't want to be so far apart so Monique made a big sacrifice and gave up everything in Moncton to be with Adam in Syracuse.

One of the experiences Adam shared with me is the importance of veterans on a hockey team. He showed up in Syracuse as a 20 year old rookie and one of the veterans on the team, Darcy Verot, who played in the NHL and was a tough guy enforcer type, took him under his wing. "Darcy probably didn't realize the impact he had on the younger guys. He was so nice to me and I was almost in awe of him. Learning and watching Darcy and the other veterans was a great experience that first year in Syracuse. They taught me how to be a pro."  Adam played for Syracuse from 2006-2009.

 During his second year in Syracuse and after dating for about 18 months Adam and Monique were in a well known jewelry store in Moncton looking at rings. One of Adam's good friends, Maudo Massaro, is part of the family that owns Itacast Jewelry. Maudo asked Adam if Monique was "the one" and when Adam told him yes they worked together to create a custom engagement ring. Adam proposed to Monique during the all star break January (2008) in New York City while they were skating around the ice rink in central park. Adam was kind of nervous about a big wedding so early in the summer he kiddingly said lets get married in Las Vegas and when Monique said that would be okay they got married at a beautiful resort on Lake Las Vegas on July 31, 2008.

The most memorable day during his time in Syracuse from a hockey perspective came in early April 2008. Adam remembers it as if it were yesterday. He was stretching with the other players after a game against the Wilkes-Barre Penguins and the coached called him into his office. The other players started laughing and kidding him he was in trouble. The coach said, "Congratulations, you made it!" Adam really didn't believe him until he said "Your plane leaves in the morning as you need to meet the Blue Jackets in Detroit." Adam said, "I had the chills, I walked out of the rink with my hockey bag to meet Monique at the car and she immediately knew what had happened by the look on my face." Adam couldn't call his dad fast enough and his dad got choked up. I know he didn't sleep that night. His dad couldn't make it to Detroit because of work commitments but after spending all day obtaining the NHL center ice package Roland and Esther got to watch their son play his first NHL game from their couch.

Monique and Adam's best friend jumped in the car and drove all day to get to Detroit.

When I asked Adam how nervous he was playing in his first NHL game he said,  "I felt sick to my stomach, it was almost to the point I was so nervous I wasn't sure I could get out on the ice. I still remember my first shift, it was on a line change and on the ice for Detroit was Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios & Dominik Hasek. I was definitely in awe, like a kid in a candy store. I lined up against Chelios and I wanted to tell him how much I admired him.

Adam played in three NHL games. After the Detroit game they flew to St. Louis to play the Blues and his third game was a home game in Columbus. Adam's dad passed away last April and before he died he told Adam his biggest regret was not taking time off to see Adam play in the NHL. His dream as he was fighting a tough battle with cancer was to see Adam play in the NHL. Adam uses this as motivation to get back to the NHL so his dad can watch him from heaven.

In January of 2009 Adam was traded by Columbus to the Chicago Blackhawks and assigned to the AHL Rockford IceHogs where he finished the 2008-2009 season. 

Adam was trying to find a spot to play for the 2009-2010 season and was having trouble finding an AHL team and when he got an offer to play in Europe he checked it out and made a decision to play in the Czech Republic. His team, HC Pardubice was a great team in the best league in the Czech Republic and had former NHL players Petr Sykora and Dominik Hasek on the team. While the monetary package was outstanding it meant Adam would be in Europe by himself as Monique had applied for US citizenship and was not allowed to leave the country during the process. They had recently bought a home in Daytona Beach and Monique would spend her time decorating the new home.

The hockey season was outstanding as the team won the championship. They played in a 10,000 seat stadium, all the games were televised, and the fans were amazing, enthusiastic, diehard fans. The team returned to Pardubice at 3:00 am after the championship game and there were over 40,000 people waiting for them in the town square. Celebrations took place for four or five days afterwards.

Adam returned to Czech Republic for the 2010-2011 season but it was not as successful. He had signed a two year contract with Pardubice but his coach left after the first year and the style of play was different under the new coach. Monique and Shadow (see details below) had come along for the second year. But there were complications with Monique's visa.  After they made long trips to get it straightened the bottom line was she had to leave the country. So for another season they were apart.

After the season Adam headed home to Daytona Beach and they were enjoying the summer until Monique had flu like symptoms and decided to get it checked out. They didn't think it was anything serious and assumed they would get some medication and be out of the hospital in an hour. Two days later on June 6, 2011 Monique was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia a rare form of cancer. The next morning Monique was on medi vac jet to her hometown in Canada for treatment.

Monique underwent a bone marrow transplant in October 2011. Her brother was the donor for the bone marrow transplant,” said Pineault. ”He was a 10 out of 10 match. It’s a miracle because the percentage chance of finding a perfect match is pretty low. Monique was doing well after the transplant and was doing great so Adam thought he would try hockey again. Through his friendship with Josh Hepditch he got in contact with the Americans and signed a contract in February of 2012. Adam was only in Allen for ten days when he got some bad news as during Monique's weekly checkup the doctor noticed the beginnings of graft versus host disease. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a complication that can occur after a bone marrow transplant in which the newly transplanted material attacks the transplant recipient's body. Adam new as a player, hockey is important but as a husband hockey is minor in the grand scheme of things. He was going to give up hockey for the year to be with Monique. All summer Monique was on as many as 13 different medications. Her transplant team was in Tampa so every Wednesday Adam & Monique would take the three hour drive from Daytona Beach to Tampa for her check up.  They would leave the house at 5:00 am to be in Tampa by 8:00, have appointments all day and then return home Wednesday evening.

Monique was doing well enough in the fall that the doctors said it would be fine for Adam to continue his hockey career. Bill McDonald had kept in touch with Adam all during the summer and he kept in touch not to ask about hockey but to ask about Monique and how she was doing. Adam told me,  "I have a lot of respect for Coach McDonald."

Adam had an interesting story about signing with the Americans for this season. Steve Martinson had written Adam a message on Facebook asking if he would be interested in playing  but when Adam checked out Martinson's Facebook page it still showed him as the Coach for the Chicago Express so he sent a message back saying he wasn't interested. Later when he was talking to Bill McDonald he realized Martinson was contacting him as the new coach for the Americans. So Adam called Coach Martinson and the first thing he did was apologize for saying no so quickly. The rest is history.

Adam shared with me at the end of our interview that Monique was in Tampa this week for a checkup with her transplant team who are amazing. They have both gotten very close to her doctor (Dr. Brian Betts) and her nurse (Alex Beaupiere). Monique got a great report and the doctor took her off four of the thirteen medications she is taking. They want to slowly take her of the other medications over time.

I wanted to mention in a little more detail the important role Shadow has played in the Pineault family. Adam's dad had German Shepherds while he was growing up and he has always had a fondness for them. A few months after they were married while Adam was playing in Rockford, Shadow joined the family. She has been the source of companionship, security when Adam is away from home, a friend during tough times and a great playmate. Shadow hangs out at the dog park by the Allen Event Center so if you see a good looking German Shepherd stop by and say hi!

Adam also talked a lot about their home in Daytona Beach which is five minutes from the ocean. When he was a kid Adam's family used to spend summers in Westbrook, Connecticut. Westbrook is a quaint shoreline community nestled on the banks of Long Island Sound between New Haven and New London. They had a boat and had great times with the boat. Adam and Monique have a boat and enjoy the life style in Daytona Beach.

Here are some comments I found about  Adams hockey ability;
- Adam is a hard-nosed, gritty, power forward
- Adam is a powerful skater with great acceleration
- Adam's style of play creates turnovers along the boards in both zones
- Adam has a booming slapshot
- Adam is a strong puck handler

We asked Adam a few questions to get to know him better:

Nickname: P-no

Roommate On The Road: Anthony Maiani

Hockey Hero: Cam Neely

Who Do You Admire As A Leader: Mike Berube

Favorite Actor: Will Ferrell

Favorite Actress: Eva Longoria

Favorite Type Of Music: Country

Favorite Singer; Kenny Chesney

One Thing People Would Be Surprised To learn About You: I got 1440 on the SAT and had a perfect score on the English portion.

Something That Has Great Value To But Little Value to Anyone Else:  I have a chain hanging up in my stall in the locker room that I gave to my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer and when he passed away so I took it back.

What Chore Do You Hate To Do: Vacuum & Laundry

If You Could Live Outside The US for Two Years Where Would It Be: Bahamas

If You Could Be Anything Besides A Pro Hockey Player: Pro baseball player

Any Pregame Rituals: I say the same prayer before each game, I get dressed the same way each game, I bless myself three times and I knock my blade three times.

Who Is The Funniest Guy On The Team: Ryley Grantham

Who Is Your Number One Fan: Monique

What Do You Like To Do To Kill Time On The Bus: Watch TV

Favorite Childhood Toy: Nintendo (Duck Hunter)

If You Could Have Someone As A Mentor: My dad

What Do You Like To Do Away From The Rink: Boating (I have a boat in Florida). golfing

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