DAYTON, Ohio - Erik Boisvert spent his childhood looking up to his dad, hoping to one day follow in his footsteps.
Just two games into his professional hockey career, Boisvert appears to be well on his way.
The 23-year-old Drummondville, Que., native, the son of former Montreal Canadiens centre Serge Boisvert, made an eye-opening debut with the Dayton Gems of the Central Hockey League last weekend. In his first two games, he recorded three goals, an assist and was plus-3.
"My dad was basically my idol," Boisvert said in a recent interview. "He didn’t really push me. He let me do it on my own. It was my idea that I wanted to become a hockey player but every time I needed advice, he would be the first one to teach me."
The elder Boisvert, who won a Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1986 before enjoying a long career in Europe, refused to force his son into hockey, though he admits he noticed the boy had talent early.
"He started skating at two years old and I could see it right away," said Serge, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick and current scout for the Canadiens organization. "He had great agility, mobility and he was good with his stick. He was a natural talent. I have to give credit to Erik. He practised so much to be a good hockey player and to be a skill player.
"I just gave him all the tools that he needed to get better. It’s funny, I never pushed him. I told Erik, 'If you want to be a speedskater or a figure skater, I will always be behind you. If you ever have questions, my door is always open.'"
The hard work is paying off. Despite his small size—he's five foot eight and 165 pounds—Boisvert dominated in his first two games with the Gems, a new entry in the CHL. After scoring twice in his first home exhibition game, Boisvert notched a third-period winner, and first-star honours, in Dayton’s 3-1 season opener against the Evansville IceMen last Saturday. The following night, he scored twice and set up another as the Gems lost 7-5 to the defending league champion Rapid City Rush.
Boisvert’s second goal showed he has more than speed and a good set of hands. He went hard to the net, battled for a rebound and scored to get Dayton within one goal at 5-4 in the third after trailing 3-0 early.
The rookie, a self-described "grinder," was second star that night.
"He brings an X-factor," Gems head coach and general manager Brian Gratz said of Boisvert's skill set.
Gratz also loves his speed and wasn't surprised that Boisvert was so influential in his first two pro games.
The journey to the CHL really began when Boisvert was a child. A year after winning the Calder Cup with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, Serge got his hands on the big prize with parent club Montreal. He played a total 46 NHL games before joining the Canadian national team that would compete in the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
Boisvert then moved his family—Erik, daughter Mary and wife Celine—to Switzerland for a year before hooking up with Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. The Boisverts then moved to Oslo, Norway where they would spend the next 10 years.
"We just loved it," Serge said of their European experience.
"Norwegians are so proud," added Erik, who like his sister, is fluent in four languages, including Norwegian, after completing high school in Oslo. "They are so cultured.
"It’s more like the 1950s. They’re very old fashioned."
Boisvert left Oslo as a teenager to play hockey in North America. He spent two years with the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before moving on to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., where he recorded 43 goals with 61 assists in his four seasons.
Boisvert said he’s actually finding the pro game to be a little easier because of how intelligent the play is as opposed to the more mistake-prone college level.
He’s content with hockey and motivated to keep advancing up the pro ladder.
"My goal is the NHL for sure," Boisvert said. "It’s tough for me as a small player but a lot of my friends are in the AHL and NHL and some of them are my size. I talk to them and ask them a lot of questions on how to improve and how to get there.
"Size really doesn’t matter at all. It’s all about the mental game, reading the play.
"A lot of speed can take you a long way."
Serge feels his son will accomplish the goal. The elder Boisvert, who wears his Calder Cup ring but keeps the Habs jewelry in the bank, has told his son plenty of stories about winning the Cup and how it takes good fortune and timing to be on a championship team in any league.
His message was simple—it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish.
"I know he’ll reach that goal of being in the NHL," said Boisvert. "He has tenacity. He’ll do everything to make it.
"If you have the talent the desire and the grit to keep going, you’ll reach it."