PONTIAC June 17, 2020
A young local hockey player was recently drafted to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Jonathan Presseau-Pieschke, a formidable right winger hailing from Bryson, was selected in the 12th round on June 6 to play for the Gatineau Olympiques.
Jonathan’s father, Stephane Pieschke, said that due to the pandemic restrictions, the draft itself was a little different than other years. Similar to the NHL, the draftees and team management are typically all in an arena together. This year, Jonathan and his family were huddled in the living room with their eyes glued to various screens, watching the event take place live. The event started the Friday evening and continued Saturday morning, which was when Jonathan’s name was called. Stephane said that the tension was building as they advanced to further and further rounds.
“There’s over 200 some kids [and] 14 rounds,” he explained. “Now we’re here on the start of the 12th. zzWe’re all looking at each other. Next thing you know: Gatineau, 12th round, you see his name pop up. Preseau-Pieschke, Jonathan, we all screamed and we hugged him, everybody was crying and the party started.”
Jonathan remembered the moment vividly.
“I was happy, that’s for sure,” he said. “We were all sitting in the living room there. My aunt started screaming alone because she [saw it] before us. She started screaming alone, we were all looking at her and … [we] turned back to the TV and saw the name.”
The celebration was a milestone in a career that has been years in the making, and one that has required a enormous amount of sacrifice and dedication from both Jonathan and his family.
He was mentored from the age of seven by local trainer Martin Dubé, who Stephane said was renowned in the area and had played in the QMJHL himself for many years.
“He’s still training him,” Stephane said. “He never stopped.”
Jonathan also caught the eye of an agent early, and was signed at the age of 13.
He started off playing minor hockey in Fort Coulonge but early in his second year of Novice, he had outstripped the competition and had to transfer to the Shawville Lions squad, who played at a slightly higher level. Stephane said that the transition was a quick one, he got the call about the transfer one evening and Jonathan was playing with the Lions in Cantley the next day at noon.
“I let him sleep when [I got] the phone call,” he said. “I got him up early enough, I said, ‘Buddy you’re playing today with the Shawville Lions, the game’s at noon. We’re leaving now.’”
Jonathan met with coach Wes Tubman before the game and despite his shy nature he fit into the squad and finished out the season.
“He made some new friends,” Stephane said. “It was a nice family, nice people.”
During his Atom years, they pursued even higher levels of competition, and Jonathan began to play in Gatineau. In his Peewee years, he stepped up to the AA and AAA level, and joined the Gatineau Intrépide camp.
“That’s when you’re playing always on the weekends, you train and practice in the week,” Stephane explained. “You’re playing against big teams, in Montreal. That’s when you know if you have the talent or not.”
His first year, Jonathan was the only forward from the younger age group (those born in 2004) to be selected for the team, a feat he was proud of.
“I was the only ‘04 that made the team, playing with people that were a year, two years older,” he said. “I got used to it.”
It was around this time he was signed to an agent, and his parents sat him down for a serious discussion about committing himself to his goal.
“We want to give you this chance, we don’t want no what ifs, or I should have done this, should have done that… none of this,” Stephane recalled. “You take the chance, if it doesn’t work, at least you tried. You can’t say that you’re not trying.”
Stephane recalled that he asked Jonathan at 11 years-old to write down his ultimate goal, which was making it to the “Q”.
Jonathan’s Peewee year also came with a huge shake up to his personal life. After a couple years of transporting Jonathan to and from the city for practices and giving up countless weekends to travel for games, his parents knew that something had to change. Stephane worked the night shift as a nurse in Gatineau, and would make numerous trips back and forth to Bryson.
“We decided we couldn’t transport him,” Stephane said. “[It was] too hard on the cars and hard on the wallet. We’re not millionaires. He was starting to get tired, school grades were starting to drop a bit.”
Juggling the responsibilities of parenting three kids with his wife, who worked as a nurse in Shawville, was also a huge strain.
“We worked opposite weekends, so we never almost [saw] each other for a long time, because we always wanted one parent with the siblings, with the kids,” Stephane said. “It wasn’t an easy process.”
They made the difficult decision to send Jonathan to live with his aunt, Isabelle Presseau, in Gatineau while enrolling in the Sport-Études program at École polyvalente Nicolas in Gatineau.
Again, this transition was made with very little notice.
“[I said], ‘Joe good news, you got accepted in the Sport-Études … The only bad news, you start tomorrow. You’re moving today.’ That’s how it went.”
Stephane reassured his son that he wasn’t kicking him out of the house, but was trying to offer him an opportunity to succeed. He said that reminding him of their talk about commitment, and also packed the letter Jonathan wrote about playing in the big leagues.
“The first week he was in Gatineau was hard for him,” Stephane said. “Imagine you’re 13 years-old in the city, when maman et papa are in Bryson … you’re [used] to a school of 300 now you’re going to a school of 5,500, that’s a big change in your life. I said, ‘ Joe, you’ve got to remember something, go and read what’s in your drawer.’”
He had transferred out of the Sport-Études program after a year, but continued attending École polyvalente Nicolas and playing with the Intrépide camp. Stephane expressed his gratitude for Isabelle taking in her nephew like she did.
“She really really helped us out, she took care of him,” he said. “She drove him to school helped him with school. [Went] to the games. We got her hooked on hockey, it’s like a drug for her, she wouldn’t miss one game.”
The incredible amount of commitment from the whole family finally paid off last week, but it was nearly derailed in his most recent season with a pair of ill-timed injuries. He suffered a abdomen injury early on, but at a tournament in Montreal in January he was hit from behind and injured his shoulder, benching him for many weeks.
“That one took some time, he needed some therapy, before he’d recovered 100 per cent,” Stephane said.
“He was off for a while, he missed a lot of games. That’s what hurt him a little bit in the draft.”
Jonathan was still able to close out his season with the Intrépide Espoir squad, a slightly lower level of competition within the camp, but managed to notch 12 goals and five assists in 19 games.
Jonathan said he tries to emulate the play styles of Todd Bertuzzi and William Carrier, both physically imposing forwards that throw their weight around.
“We’ve got a similar play style,” Jonathan said. “I like to get physical in the game. I’ve got good speed … I like to hit people. That’s my role.”
Stephane agreed, and noted that standing 6 ft. and weighing in at 206 lbs., Jonathan is built for that position.
“He’s a big grinder, he wins his puck battles and he’s fast,” he said. “When I say he’s fast, he’s fast. They got him for his speed. He’s a big boy and he likes to hit. When he hits he hits hard. I’ve seen him hitting at the age of 14, 15 and he threw some kids over the boards, he broke some collarbones, he’s a freight train.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, both Jonathan and Stephane were unsure of when the camps and combine for the Olympiques would begin, but they were positive about his chances of making the roster, a difficult task for a 16 year-old, competing against 20 year old players.
“I’ve been playing with people older than me since I was 12 years-old,” Jonathan said. “Most of the team are my friends. It should help a bit.”
“The Gatineau Olympiques, they’re building a team this year,” Stephane said. “They’re building all young kids. New arena, new vision, new coach, new director, new everything … That’s why they want young kids for the future. They want to train them and get them ready to bring … the cup [back] to Gatineau.”
Stephane repeatedly stated that all of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of countless coaches, trainers and mentors throughout Jonathan’s career, from Fort Coulonge to Shawville to Gatineau.
“I thank all the coaches that worked with him,” he said. “He met a lot of good people here in the Pontiac … He met a lot of good coaches.
* This article is available only to subscribers of the Premium or Online Edition memberships. *
If you have already subscribed please login using your email address and password. If not then please subscribe to the online edition using our Subscribe page.