When Jeff Deslauriers was a kid, the regular goalie on his team went on vacation. Someone needed to step in to take his place, and when little JD raised his hand to volunteer to defend the crease for his squad, nobody knew they were looking at a boy who would reach the heights of being a goalie in the National Hockey League.
Many years later, having played on multiple teams — and currently on a one-way contract with the Anaheim Ducks — Deslauriers is still a kid at heart, willing to raise his hand and step into the net whenever it’s needed.
I recently caught up with Jeff via phone from his snow-covered Edmonton house, a place he has called home since playing for the Oilers prior to his trade to Anaheim.
Photo Copyright: Lance Ning – Ducks Report
AS: In that first full year of being a goalie, what was it about the position that made you stick with it?
JD: “When I was a kid, my dad told me that a d-man never goes past the blue line, so I remember playing D at one point and when I got to the blue line, I put on the brakes. I just dumped the puck into the corner and I knew I was more of a defensive player. When I started playing goalie I did really well; I was stopping the puck, it was something neat, it was fun and I just stuck with it.”
AS: Was there ever a point in your childhood where you didn’t want to play the position of goalie or even hockey in general anymore?
JD: “I knew it was what I loved to do. Even if it’s not the best situation or not the result that I want, I just stick with it and make the best of it, I keep battling. I try to keep my head up and go out there and have fun. There are points where you ask yourself why you keep doing this, but at the end of the day, there are always more pros than cons.”
AS: What was it that made you an NHL-caliber goalie, as opposed to just another guy on the ice across from you?
JD: “I think it really comes down to work ethic, sacrifice, and commitment. At some points, my friends wanted me to go with them skiing and stuff like that, but I just kept everything centered on hockey. I had to stay focused on the goal.”
AS: Has there ever been anything major that you’ve missed because of hockey?
JD: “I recall when I first started in Edmonton, my grandma passed away, and at that time I wasn’t really in the door yet. I was just starting in the NHL and I made the decision to stay with the team. It’s one of those things I look back at it and I’m like, ‘Ok, did I make the right decision or no?’ But I know she would have probably told me to go play hockey. I played some of my best games in that stretch, but when I look back at it, one of my regrets is probably not going to say goodbye. Sometimes it’s not fun making these sacrifices, but you have to if you want to make it.”
Photo Copyright: Lance Ning – Ducks Report
Throughout his career, Deslauriers has stressed the importance of family by immortalizing them on his masks in different ways. He has always had the initials of his late grandfather on his masks, and prior to his grandmother’s death, he had a breast cancer awareness ribbon painted on it. Following her death, he had her name added to the ribbon. Although these may seem like small gestures, these are big ways for Deslauriers to keep the ties that bind close to him at all times.
The importance of keeping small reminders of those who helped him get as far as he has is crucial for Deslauriers as he travels and finds his place in hockey. Jeff’s career hasn’t always been stable, but it has been full of opportunities to learn. Playing for multiple teams over the past 10 years, but never having a contract longer than two years and constantly going through negotiations with different teams, has made him somewhat of a journeyman of his trade.
Given the unpredictable nature of his career thus far, it is safe to assume Jeff has spent some time looking ahead.
AS: Where do you see yourself in the future as a goaltender in the National Hockey League?
JD: “In the next three, four, five years, I’m not sure yet. I have one more year left with Anaheim so my focus is right there. My main goal when I sign contracts or even just put on skates is to be the best. My main objective is to be a number one goalie, a starter goalie; the guy that the team can put trust in to go out there and make a difference. You never know what is going to happen though.”
AS: How do you mentally handle the current three-goalie situation in Anaheim?
JD: “Last year in Anaheim we had a three-goalie situation and it was the same thing in Edmonton. I’m used to that situation now. In the NHL nobody is going to give it to you, you have to work and you have to work hard, I’m ready for that. You have to fight for what you want.”
AS: How do you keep a positive attitude after the trials you have faced in the NHL and other leagues?
JD: “I think some things are harder to digest than others. I like to think there is more than one way to get where you want to be. Some ways are easier than others but you have to make the best of it and never get down. You have to keep your head up and work harder.”
Photo Copyright: Amy Snow – Siren1363
Switching gears a bit, I ventured into the topic of the importance of goalie coaches from a goaltenders perspective.
Luckily for Jeff, his career has been blessed with some of the finest goalie coaches working in the industry. He has worked with Daniel Blouin, Pete Peeters, Fred Chabot, and last but certainly not least, David Marcoux. Although he commented at length about the incredible men who have coached him it boils down to a few key points.
JD: “As a goalie I think you need someone to guide you through your career. When you are young and first sign and start going through the minor system to come up it’s important to have somebody there to give you some guidelines.
A coach I will always remember and credit with helping me find success is my junior hockey goalie coach, Daniel Blouin. He was the first coach to really believe in me and he really helped make me the goalie I am today and achieve my dream!
I’ve been working with Pete Peeters since 2002 and have learned a lot from him! He played the game and has a really unique way of helping me on my approach, how to react, as well as working on my movement and positioning. I only worked with Fred Chabot for a year, but his coaching when dealing with technical issues around the net as well as angles was invaluable to me.
What can I say about Dave Marcoux? I’ve been working with him for the past two summers and he really stresses working on technical aspects, especially bad angle recovery and positioning. He has really helped to raise my game in the process of being ready for camp when the time for that comes. I’ve developed a really great relationship with him and his family. He’s been helping me a lot; he just knows how to get the best performance out of me which results in my improvement on ice.”
When Jeff isn’t working hard on the ice, he is exploring other hobbies and interests. A master chef in the kitchen, Deslauriers is always open to cooking challenges and enjoys discussing his favorite dishes to make. Cooking offers him a chance to relax and blow off steam after a rough day, or to simply bring joy to his family and friends.
While CBA negotiations drag on, Deslauriers has also taken an active role in the construction of his Edmonton home. Learning all about laying hardwood flooring and choosing light fixtures, Jeff isn’t scared to get his hands dirty.
But what does he do when he isn’t skating, cooking, or building? Studying. The talkative French-Canadian is currently studying chemistry, pursuing a degree in his off time.
A man of many talents and interests, Deslauriers is a true gem not only in the dressing room, but also in the communities and lives of those he interacts with. Time will only tell if Jeff gets his shot at being a true starting goalie in the NHL, but keep your eyes on the spirited Quebec native, you never know what he’ll have up his sleeve next.