The new commissioner of the QMJHL, Mario Cecchini, is aware that he has in front of him a “great and important” challenge, but he comes with “the deep desire to restore the letters of nobility” of the QMJHL and hockey.
Say hello to the Cecchini circuit. The new commissioner, who will take office on May 8, met the media for the first time since his appointment Thursday afternoon at a Montreal hotel. Several players from the Quebec sports community were present, including the general manager of Hockey Quebec, Jocelyn Thibault, and the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, Dany Maciocia.
“I will do everything to make you recognize yourself within our values and our actions,” Cecchini said in his opening remarks. It will be a team work and commitment of the different actors of our society. »
Cecchini succeeds Gilles Courteau, who led the QMJHL for 37 years. The latter, who would normally leave his post in the spring of 2024, resigned on March 5 following disputed testimony in parliamentary committee in connection with the cases of violent initiations in junior hockey.
“The problem I have right now is that I have too many ideas,” Cecchini said with a smile when asked what he intends to do to give hockey a new image.
“We will obviously have to sit down to define a plan and priorities with the executive committee, the teams, the people from the commissioner’s office. Also take the time to talk a lot with other hockey stakeholders. »
A little earlier, the one who remains interim president of the Montreal Alouettes until April 6 had listed some of his main priorities, saying he wanted to make the QMJHL “a benchmark at all levels: athletic, academic and especially for the ‘community involvement’. Cecchini also spoke of “training exceptional citizens” and adding “self, performance and career management to the educational curriculum”.
He also wanted to salute Gilles Courteau’s “rich contribution” to Quebec and Canadian junior hockey. “My goal will be to continue to improve, to update the structures that will lead us to be in tune with the values of society.”
The QMJHL has been at the heart of sports news in recent weeks. First because of the sordid stories of initiations that would have occurred in the three Canadian junior leagues. On this, Mario Cecchini was very clear: it will be “zero tolerance”.
“Frequency is going to be key,” Cecchini added. This message will have to be repeated very often so that it is heard and understood. Let’s hope that we don’t have to surrender to severe sanctions. »
The President of the Assembly of Members, Richard Létourneau, has meanwhile indicated that an advisory committee is in operation to develop for next season an “independent way” to receive complaints. “Any complaint handling will be done independently and parallel to the League. »
Mr. Létourneau also recalled the code of ethics in place since 2019, signed each year by the players, which stipulates that it is prohibited to organize “a potentially humiliating, degrading, abusive or dangerous activity of the initiation type”. .
In recent weeks, every general manager and player on the circuit has been met, he said. “[It was] to tell them that they are part of the solution, that we need them and that we will do everything to allow people who feel wronged to be able to speak, to to confess. »
Recall that the new commissioner has been summoned to a parliamentary committee, while three days of hearing will take place next week. Unlike interim commissioner Martin Lavallée, Cecchini will not speak on behalf of the League.
“The reason is simple: first of all, I don’t work with the League [presently],” he explained to La Presse. I am not at all competent today to talk about what happened. I was asked to talk about the future. »
Whether or not fighting should be abolished in the QMJHL is also a long-standing debate. It’s official: fighting is no longer allowed. The Assembly of Members endorsed it on February 23, announced Mr. Létourneau.
“We are now in the how and in the sanctions that will ensue if certain players continue to favor this kind of game,” Cecchini added.
An expanded hockey committee is currently working to establish the regulations, which will have to be accepted by the minister responsible for sports, Isabelle Charest. A meeting is scheduled for the next month.
As we know, Mario Cecchini has never worked in the world of junior hockey. His “different” look could be positive, he believes.
“It’s kind of the strength of 50,000 feet, you get a bigger picture.” You are not necessarily contaminated by the speeches, you have the right to innocence, to ask any question. Normally, when the paradigm of the beholder is not the same as the receiver, things can evolve quickly and differently because at some point the tree hides the forest. »
Cecchini nevertheless intends to do things with “huge respect” for those who have worked in the industry for a long time. This notion of respect, he has also mentioned it on several occasions.
“I only have one way of working and that is with respect for people, for opinions. Any opinion can be expressed with respect. After that, there is a decision to be made and it often comes back to me. If there is a sanction, someone has to decide. »