Mike Lalonde looks back on eight years in the NPHL and a lifetime in hockey

It was November 2010. A somewhat reluctant Mike Lalonde had been convinced by former NHLer and co-worker Dody Wood to come play for the Horse Lake Chiefs, then in the North Peace Hockey League.

Lalonde had probably skated about once since hanging up his skates on his professional hockey career.

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The team that first night? The Dawson Creek Senior Canucks in Memorial Arena.

He estimates he had “three or four” points that night in a winning effort.

“As soon as I started playing I got the urge and hunger back,” says Lalonde, who was content with having put the wraps on his pro hockey career. “It was quite the funny return, because I knew I wasn’t ready and [Wood] just said come and try out.”

Fast forward eight NPHL seasons later, and five of those calling the same rink in which he made his debut his home rink, Lalonde is calling it a day on his NPHL playing career.

The 5’10” forward was able to wrap his career up in admirable fashion, helping the Canucks win back-to-back Coy Cups — the BC AA hockey championship. While this year, they fell just short of the NPHL title, a tough game six loss to the Grande Prairie Athletics, and it stung, he’s proud of how the Canucks played.

“The last few years, we’ve really put together a good team and it’s been a good ride,” he shares. “The guys played their heart out against GP, and to close it out, losing it in game six the way we did, controlling most of the game, knowing that a couple of bounces here or we could have been hoisting that trophy, I was satisfied with it.”

He was battling injury during the NPHL playoffs, and still suffering through it in the Coy Cup. He admits by the end, he was “mentally and physically” done.

“It gets tougher every year to get in shape when you get up to my age, I’m 38 years old,” he says.

“I’m just purely getting too busy and not having the ability to train as I could without family and work responsibilities.”

Lalonde, who would travel from his home in Chetwynd to play for the Senior C’s, wants to spend more time with wife and two kids, particularly with an eye on continuing to coach his son in Chetwynd Minor Hockey.

He’s leaving it on his terms. Like he did with his pro career.

Playing Junior A with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL — in the 1999/00 season, he had 91 points — he had earned a scholarship to Michigan State University, a NCAA Division I school, where he played from 2001 to 2005, with teammates including future NHLers Ryan Miller, Duncan Keith, and David Booth. He was a key player, nearly a point-per-game in his junior season.

After a five game run at the end of the 2004/05 season with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL after his college career came to a close, he became a full time pro the next season making the Stockton Thunder out of training camp.

He was quite the player, putting up 52 points and earning a ticket to the ECHL All-Star Game.

The next season, he earned a spot in training camp for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ AHL affiliate. Although he saw exhibition games and played well, he didn’t make the team.

After another 50-plus point season with Stockton, he decided to take his talent to Europe, playing in the Netherlands, going for a great life experience.

“Small town kid from Northern BC going overseas to play hockey, you really see a whole different culture, it was very eye-opening,” he says.

“I mean you can’t even put that into words the opportunity with that and what hockey did for me.”

He played another season in Stockton after that, and returned for one more in the Netherlands. A back injury from a cross check marred his final season in Europe.

“I never really could get going,” he says. “I was 29 and I met my wife the summer before that and then got injured so it was time to make a life decision, because it was just a tough life with two people trying to travel around all over.”

In the spring of 2010, he was still leaning towards continuing his hockey career, hoping he would recover from his injury. He had returned to Chetwynd with his wife, sending out resumes, and if he couldn’t find any work locally — which he wasn’t expecting to — he would continue playing pro.

Sure enough, he got a job as a gas plant operator — a job he still holds today — and he stayed here. The time was right as their firstborn son was on the way.

“It all just came together like that, and a lot of really good things came out of it, and then the satisfaction of leaving when I did and I never regretted leaving pro hockey because I knew it was time.

“My body sort of told me that,” he laughs.

And when Dody Wood told him he was coaching Horse Lake and asked him if he was interested in playing, Lalonde initially more or less laughed it off.

But after a couple of weeks, and his wife suggesting to him he should give it a try, he gave in. And that began eight seasons of a different kind of competitive hockey.  

But after a couple of weeks, and his wife suggesting to him he should give it a try, he gave in. And that began eight seasons of a different kind of competitive hockey.

He saw some good years. In his second season with Horse Lake, they nearly made the Allan Cup, the AAA hockey championship. Next year, with the Fort St. John Flyers, they did win the Savage Cup and earn a spot at the Allan Cup. And now, he has two Coy Cups under his belt.

He spent five years with a great team in the Senior Canucks.

“They’re guys that want to bring people in and they aren’t jealous of anybody that would make the team better,” he shares. “That’s what makes the room’s dynamic so good, up and down the lineup we have different guys stepping up and no one’s jealous of that in anyway. Everybody knows it’s team success and I don’t think you see a lot of that elsewhere.

“Everyone wants to win the trophies and win for the team, no matter what. No matter who’s playing or not, everybody seems to be in it, and that really is what a championship team is about.”

In the end, he has a lot of thanks to give.

“I do appreciate the board of directors and the coaches and all the equipment guys that worked with us and for us in Dawson. Everybody’s treating me good, the players, there’s a couple of them that are five or six year teammates and friends, and I appreciate them, and I appreciate them welcoming me in and then just to top it all off my wife and kids for their support, like you round up and think about all of the sacrifices they made, so a thank you for my wife for supporting and my kids for always being there. And then of course my teammates, and coaches, and anybody associated with the Dawson Creek Canucks for supporting us over the last few years.”

reporter@dcdn.ca

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