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Moose to vamoose: Capt. Cormier ready for takeoff, signs deal to play in Kazakhstan

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The life Patrice Cormier has become accustomed to — at home and at work — is about to undergo a major shakeup.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/07/2018 (1672 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The life Patrice Cormier has become accustomed to — at home and at work — is about to undergo a major shakeup.

Cormier, an original member of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 organization and a fixture on the Manitoba Moose the past three seasons, has agreed to play hockey in the KHL next season.

The 28-year-old centre, coming off his most productive season as a pro, signed a one-year deal with Barys Astana, a squad located in Kazakhstan.

Patrice Cormier is an original member of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 organization and was a fixture on the Manitoba Moose the past three seasons. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

His wife, Tanya, is due to deliver their first child next month. Cormier will head overseas at the end of August for the start of the 2018-19 campaign, and his family will join him about a month later.

The couple is spending the off-season at their home in Moncton, N.B. On Wednesday, Cormier agreed the second half of 2018 will be a whirlwind.

“It’s kind of funny how life works. There’s a lot to take in the next few weeks and months, I guess. But it’s all exciting stuff. I’m definitely not complaining,” he said. “The baby is the main focus and the health of my wife. The rest is just getting ready for stuff after that.”

Cormier, the Moose captain the past two American Hockey League seasons, said bolting from the team never entered his mind until he got an unexpected call midway through the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

“It was weird. I was on the bus heading to the airport for a trip to Grand Rapids and I got call from my agent, and he asked if I was interested. I didn’t want to talk about it then, (and) just kind of focus on the present,” he said. “Once I got home from Grand Rapids, we talked about it at home. I talked to (Moose GM Craig Heisinger) about what was going on and, finally… decided to sign a contract.

“Not one bit did I think our relationship (with the Moose) was going to come to an end. I have a really good relationship with Zinger and (Manitoba head coach) Pascal (Vincent), and I believe I could have gone back there. I think I’m still playing some pretty good hockey, so I think I could have been a huge help, but you make the best decisions for the family and for our future. That’s what led us to it.”

Cormier didn’t provide details of the contract, but it’s a safe bet that it’s more lucrative than the terms of the AHL deal he played under the past two seasons.

Prior to the 2016-17 campaign, Cormier had been under contract with the Atlanta Thrashers / Jets. He played 21 regular-season games with the Thrashers during the 2010-11 season — scoring once and adding an assist — and competed for a job with the Jets during the team’s inaugural training camp in September 2011 before being sent to the St. John’s IceCaps for most of the season.

That goal with the Thrashers, coming against Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie James Reimer, remains his lone NHL tally. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Chris Thorburn and Alex Burmistrov were on the ice with him when he scored.

“We got beat up pretty good by Toronto that game. I think we were down like 9-1 when I scored, so I was happy but I wasn’t going to make a scene out there,” he said, laughing. “But everybody on the ice was pretty happy for me.”

He has played 52 NHL games, including 31 with Winnipeg; he was routinely called up during the team’s first three years after the team moved north to fill in when injuries struck the parent club. He collected three assists in a Jets jersey.

Selected by New Jersey in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft, Cormier was one of the players involved in the blockbuster trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils in 2010. He said Wednesday he has no regrets about his pro career and doesn’t lament not having earned steady work in the NHL.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t sit there and wish there was more. Honestly, I’ve done everything I could to be a good pro, a good teammate.”

Cormier played 203 games with the Moose in Winnipeg, another 199 with the IceCaps and 11 with Atlanta’s AHL squad, the Chicago Wolves. Last winter, he posted career highs in goals (22), assists (21) and points, while continuing his physical brand of play (126 penalty minutes).

“I’ve been with the organization a long time. Winnipeg was good to me and my wife, spending the last three years there, and before that, St. John’s. We’ve been very lucky being part of a special organization,” he said. “I took a lot of pride in them giving me that letter (C) the last two years. It was a fun couple of years as we built something there, and it paid off with the success the team had.”

Cormie played 21 regular-season games with the Atlanta Thrashers during the 2010-11 season and competed for a job with the Winnipeg Jets during the team's inaugural training camp in September 2011 before being sent to the St. John's IceCaps for most of the season. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Moose bench boss said No. 28 is, indeed, going to be missed.

“Patrice is a great, great man. He is so gifted as a leader, so respected in the dressing room,” said Vincent. “I was really hoping he was going to be coming back to us. It’s going to be weird not having him at training camp (in September).

“You create these relationships, and it goes beyond just coach and player because it’s humans beings going through so many ups and downs during a hockey season. For Patrice to have this opportunity and to live out a different experience, I think that’s great. He’s going to be 27 and he’s still in his prime. But if it doesn’t work out, he knows the door is always open here.”

Winnipegger and former NHLer Nigel Dawes has played the past seven seasons in Astana and raved about the city, Cormier said.

“We did our homework before. Nigel mentioned the city should be the least of my worries. He said it’s great there, the people are great, the team is great. I’m not sure I would have gone to just any KHL team. I wasn’t banking on going over there. But it sounds like this should be a really good experience,” he said.

“It’s human nature to have little doubts, to be a little bit nervous, but that’s normal. It’s more excitement about the opportunity now.”

Dawes has switched addresses and will skate with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, another KHL team based in Russia.

However, Cormier said he knows Brandon Bochenski, who recently signed a one-year contract to return to Astana, as well as former Montreal Canadiens farmhand Darren Dietz and Curtis Valk, who has spent time in the AHL and ECHL the last four seasons.

“Those are a couple of guys that I’ve been in touch with, and I’m excited to be their teammate,” he said.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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