The love for a sport is often discovered at an early age.
For Francis Lemay, a fourth-year sociology major in the Long Beach State hockey club, hockey has been a part of his life since he was a toddler.
“I’ve been skating since I was three,” Lemay said, “It’s just part of the lifestyle where I grew up. For my second Christmas, my parents got me my first pair of Canada Cycle & Motor Co. skates and I never stopped skating.”
Lemay was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and grew up speaking French and idolizing the NHL team, Montreal Canadiens. Whenever he could, Lemay’s dad Eric would take him to Canadiens games, which became a shared interest between the two.
Lemay has always taken immense pride in the game, and is one of the fastest players on the team, according to head coach Sean Hoang.
Speed was his main focus when he trained during his early years. Constant drills filled most of his days.
Whether it was street hockey or defending his household net in shootouts against his father, the game has served as a family bonding experience for the Lemay’s.
Lemay attributes learning his aggressive style of play from his father as they practiced shooting drills five days a week. Lemay also studied his childhood idol, Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, and modeled his game after him.
“My dad played hockey at his work and would play with me when he had free time,” Lemay said. “Dad is very hardworking with an aggressive edge and I definitely play like that.”
At 10 years old, Lemay and his family moved from Montreal to Southern California when his father accepted a high-level position with a new company.
After taking English as a second language classes at University Park Elementary in Irvine and working with an English tutor, Lemay learned the language quickly.
“It was sink or swim for me,” Lemay said. “I had to learn English.”
Lemay played for the Orange County Hockey Club, a youth travel hockey organization until he entered high school at JSerra, a private Catholic high school in San Juan Capistrano.
In his senior year, Lemay led the team to the quarterfinals.
After graduating high school in 2016, Lemay wanted to further his playing career and considered schools such as the University of Oregon and the University of Washington. He ultimately decided to call the Beach his home, which allowed him to stay close to family.
“I felt I had more to give to this game,” Lemay said. “I didn’t want to waste all the blood I’ve put into this sport my entire life.”
He joined the CSULB Hockey Club as a freshman and used the work ethic his father instilled in him from an early age to stay aggressive.
After spending 84 minutes in the penalty box freshman year, nearly two games worth, Lemay’s aggressive style of play became his calling card. In tight games, Lemay would try to get opponents off their game by slapping sticks and getting in his opponent’s head.
Now he’s shifted his focus to staying on the ice to make sure he can help his team during crunch time.
The last two seasons, Lemay has lowered his total penalty minutes from 68 minutes to 36 minutes.
Hoang is looking forward to Lemay making an impact this year as a senior leader on and off the ice.
“When we got him as a freshman he was fiery and wanted to make his mark,” Hoang said. “He’s overall a good kid who has grown a lot over the years. He’s really stepped up as a leader and changed his game to help the team more.”
In addition to being a leader on the ice, Lemay also isn’t afraid to lead in other areas too.
Displeased with the way the locker room’s state reflected the work of the club, Lemay decided to rally his team to renovate it.
With the help of a personal $200 donation from coach Hoang, Lemay alongside teammates Brendan Conaty, Adam Moroz, Matt Hoeksema and Gian Ebert built a table, two benches and installed new drywall.
They also added new coats of black and yellow paint to reflect the school’s colors.
“Our locker room last year was a shit show,” sophomore teammate Nico SanToro said. “Francis is one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met. He installed new rubber floor mats and painted the walls making it look and feel like a college clubhouse now.”
After graduating from CSULB, Lemay plans to pursue law enforcement.
“He’s one of the prime candidates to be captain this season,” Hoang said. “He’s been on my top line for the last two years now.”
The CSULB hockey club will begin its play at the Lakewood Ice Oct. 4th vs LMU at 7:35 p.m.