Self-Taught New Bedford Hockey Player Makes Quincy College Men’s Hockey Team
Robert Thibeault is living proof that dreams do come true.
The 29-year-old New Bedford native has been an avid hockey fan his entire life and is now doing what he loves most on a pair of ice skates for Quincy College.
The freshman may be the oldest guy on the team, but it was no easy pass onto the roster. He said the school was looking for more "big guys" to try out so he gave it his best shot.
"I went out and did awful," Thibeault said. "I could not compete with the guys on the team who all have a pretty impressive and accomplished background in the sport."
However, after a good month of skating with the team, the coach began to see great improvement in Thibeault. A few months later, after sitting on the bench, practicing, playing hard and focusing on his schoolwork, Thibeault earned a spot on the Quincy College men's hockey team. This is the first year for Quincy as a hockey program in the New England Independent Hockey Conference Collegiate Hockey Federation.
"I started playing hockey when I was about 2 years old," Thibeault said. "My Dad played hockey and my uncles played hockey and it was the first sport I ever learned as a kid. I just picked up a stick, went out onto the kitchen floor and started whacking around a bureau knob. The rest is history."
Growing up, Thibeault loved watching the Mighty Ducks, Boston Bruins and his father play the game.
"Our family has a long history in hockey," Thibeault said. "We're from Quebec (both parents' sides). We have some pro players from Finland in our family and it became a big passion of mine. The only problem is that my parents couldn't afford it.
"I would play out in the streets with my friends since it was the only way I could afford to play. Eventually, I taught myself how to skate on the local ponds, how to back-skate, cross over, glide with the puck and stick handling. I wasn't the best skater at the time, but I could hit anything with a puck and I can stick-handle for days."
When it comes to role models, Thibeault gave a nod to some SouthCoast figures.
"I've got to give it to Brian Pothier who's also from New Bedford. Ever since I was a kid and found out he went to the NHL, I would watch him play at New Bedford High," Thibeault said. "It made me want to be a New Bedford Whaler. I wanted to play for New Bedford High hockey so badly because of Brian and even Kenny Gouveia and Coach John Sullivan. Even Mark Frey, who played for New Bedford Voc-Tech. New Bedford had such a hotbed for hockey back then. I wanted to be just like these guys. Paul Correia from the Mighty Ducks was also another favorite player of mine growing up as well as Wayne Gretzky and Cam Neely."
The men's team is in the playoffs with a three-win streak preparing for its next match against the national reigning 2022 champions Babson College on Friday, Feb. 3.
"This is a very big game," Thibeault said. "Then, after that, we have UNH (University of New Hampshire). The goal is to get to nationals in Philly (Philadelphia)."
Thibeault has been offered a three-year contract with Quincy and will continue to spread positivity with a message to anyone back home looking to pursue their dreams as he did.
"Keep following your dreams, play hard, and if you put in the hard work and give 101% always, you have a chance. Don't ever let anybody tell you that you don't. If you believe hard enough, work hard enough and give determination and full heart, you can't lose.