Like many who have come before him, Chuck Carré will look back and question the route he followed. But as he prepares to enter his second year at Carleton University in Ottawa, prepping for a second season patrolling the blue-line of the Ravens’ still new team, he’s not about to question the destination.
Things have turned out quite nicely for the well-spoken graduate of Ecole Secondaire Macdonald-Cartier. Playing hockey since the age of five or six, Carré recalled a time when the going was somewhat tougher.
“Looking back at a few home videos that my parents have, I had trouble skating for a while,” he admitted. “But once I got the hang of skating, ice hockey came pretty easily.” In fact, ice hockey and countless other activities.
An avid baseball player in his youth who often played with teams two to three years older, Carré was not about to stop there. “I played almost every sport I can remember during the school year.” An accomplished high-jumper at the high school level, the youngest of two children (older sister Genevieve attends the University of Ottawa), Carré seldom met a sport he did not like.
“Playing other sports definitely kept me in shape, playing in the off-season.” Still, as he looks back at these days, he can’t help but wonder about the “what ifs” that may have seen him focus entirely on hockey, perhaps a few years earlier.
He recalled the many twists and turns he encountered along the way. A few years of AA hockey gave way to a five-year stretch at the AAA level — one that would see a metamorphosis in the way Carré played the game he loved. “My role actually changed a lot. When I was younger, I was generally an offensively aggressive defenceman, scoring a lot of goals.”
But he remained undersized until midway through his high school career, a fact that caused him to adjust his role on the ice. “I didn’t grow until Grade 10 and so I found myself becoming more of a stay-at-home defenceman, not pinching as much, not rushing as much.”
After one season with the Sudbury Nickel Capitals (Midget AAA), his defensive acumen quickly became his calling card at the junior hockey level. As a 16-year-old, Carré attended the tryouts for the Jr. Wolves, a team laden with veteran talent.
“Coming into the tryouts, I didn’t know a lot of the older vets — it was certainly a little intimidating going up against them in the drills,” he noted. But an invitation to skate with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves at the same time clearly bolstered his confidence, and he earned a berth with the NOJHL team.
Over the course of the next two years, Carré became “Mr. Dependability” for coach Dave Clancy, something he credits to a couple of key acquaintances he made along the way.
“John McGarry was our assistant coach and he helped me a lot. He made me feel welcome and helped me out in all aspects that I needed to improve,” said Carré.
But a locker-room full of 19 and 20 year olds can wreak havoc on the psyche of a young man, who admits to being much more on the shy side. Enter another young man who displayed exactly why he was a good choice to captain the squad.
“As far as players go, Matt Chuipka had the biggest influence on me. When I would make a mistake or get yelled at, Matt was always there to pick me up,” explained Carré.
Leaning toward attempting to secure an NCAA scholarship, Carré — an outstanding academic at the secondary school level — came close to garnering an offer from Princeton. Unfortunately, close wouldn’t cut it, so it was time, in the spring of 2008, to look at other options.
I found myself becoming more of a stay-at-home defenceman.
“At that point, it was more about trying to find the right school,” said Carré, adding that by that time, he knew architectural studies clearly intrigued him. Enter Carleton University — much closer to home, and with the side benefit of being in the city where his sister also attends university.
But what of the hockey dreams? “I knew I was under the radar, so I e-mailed (Ravens’) coach (Fred Parker) and he got back to me right away with tryout information.”
After attending just one open practice session, Carré and one other rookie were invited to the second of the twice daily workouts, this time hooking up with the returning players from the 2007-08 Carleton team. One week later, Carré was informed he’d cracked the roster of the team, which was competing in the OUA for just the second year since the re-emergence of the program.
Looking back, Carré is sure the season could not have gone much better.
“I’ve had some great friendships with great teams, but this group of guys were so much fun to be with, on and off the ice. “Everyone is there for the same reason – they want to get an education, they want to play hockey and they want to win.”
When the destination provides all that you are looking for, it’s easy to forget the few detours you encountered along the way.
Randy Pascal is the voice of Eastlink Sports and the founder of SudburySports.com