Developing Leaders On and Off the Ice

This article is shared from RMC Athletics:

For seniors Ben Pruneau and Joey May, this last Carr-Harris Cup allows them time to reflect on their past four years at the college and how it has made them into the leaders they are today.

Both players have come through similar paths, looking to continue on their hockey career after finishing off their eligibility in ‘Junior A’.

In the case of forward Ben Pruneau, he found his way to RMC after spending a year at the University of Ottawa, while simultaneously playing junior hockey with the Rockland Nationals (Ontario Junior A/CCHL).

“I have always been interested in the military,” said Pruneau. “One of my dad’s friends was in the military, and he motivated me to join.”

After those conversations and time to reflect, the Gatineau product found himself connected with Coach Richard Lim, and soon he became the newest member of the Paladins hockey program.

Similarly, goaltender Joey May got inspired by family to continue his hockey career at RMC.

“My father was a university hockey player himself at the University of Michigan, and my mom played all kinds of sports,” said May. “Growing up, we were in quite a supportive environment to pursue athletics, especially hockey.”

One of the factors for the Calgary native was a desire to emulate what his father had done.

“Playing university hockey was always an end goal of mine,” May reflected. “With my dad playing in university, that’s where I wanted to progress my career, and I saw RMC as a great opportunity to continue playing the sport, while also getting a good education.”

The building blocks of their experiences at RMC began in their first year (2019-2020) where the two got to experience some shining moments, including defeating Army at the Leon’s Centre and making the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

“Beating West Point at home was probably the biggest win I ever had in my life,” Pruneau proudly said. “It was such a great atmosphere, especially with the West Point students coming here to Kingston to cheer them on.”

Joey May was a backup that season for the then starter Brad van Schubert. An unfortunate injury to the starter meant May got to play some big games for the Paladins playoff push.

“We were on the road against the University of Ottawa and in a crucial game to move us into the playoffs,” May said. “We won in overtime and I remember Liam Murray scoring the goal, and I was the first one in the dog pile because I was so excited we were able to make the playoffs.”

Fast forward to now, despite challenges related to the pandemic, both seniors have had the opportunity to use their time at the college to develop their leadership skills.

Pruneau remembers fondly his orientation program experiences as a first-year cadet at RMC, which propelled him to become a leader in that same program a couple of years later.

“The first-year orientation program (FYOP) is really hard, but at the same time, it’s some of your most memorable weeks at the college,” Pruneau reflected. “I remembered when I was doing the FYOP program, so now being the person leading FYOP was different but really cool.”

Ben Pruneau in action at the 34th Carr-Harris Cup (February 6, 2020) (Reuben Polansky-Shapiro)

On top of being a leader for his flight within his squadron, the Business Administration major also got an opportunity to take on one of the most prestigious roles at the college.

For RMC, there are four pillars (academics, bilingualism, physical fitness and military) that each cadet must complete in order to graduate. For the military component, each cadet is expected to take on a leadership position during their time at RMC.

In 2022, Pruneau was selected to one of the top six cadet positions, serving as Deputy Cadet Wing Commander, the second highest ranking officer cadet position at the school who is responsible for the care and coordination of 1100 officer cadets.

“Having the chance to think outside the box and being given a wider group to lead, it made me realize some things, and it was a great opportunity for me as it gave me an example of what it could be like in my career.” Pruneau said.

“I believe if you’re able to play a varsity sport, succeed at school and your second language, along with maintaining your fitness, then you have demonstrated that you can multitask well.”

Colonel Lockhart, the director of Cadets, fondly remembers Pruneau’s time as the DCWC.

“He did an outstanding job and remained calm in challenging and unique situations as RMC returned to in-person programming,” said Lockhart.

May found his leadership opportunities at the rink where as the veteran goalie of the team, he was tasked with leading by example and being a positive teammate no matter the circumstances.

For some, being a backup may lead to a negative attitude and one that is focused internally rather than externally and the teammates around you. May stands out in this way because no matter whether he is in the net or on the bench, his attitude and leadership by example remains the same.

“I’m going to be the best cheerleader I can be. I’ve been a backup before in Junior A and I know what my role is when I’m not starting,” said May.

“My dad used to tell me, ‘hockey is a game of last man standing’, and I took that to heart,” May reflected. “I always took that with me wherever I was playing. If I had the love of the game and love for my teammates, I could keep moving forward.”

Joey May at the 2020 edition of the Carr-Harris Cup (Reuben Polansky-Shapiro)

Head Coach Richard Lim couldn’t be more proud of the player and leader May has become.

“Joey has been a consummate leader in his 4 years with our program. His work ethic on and off the ice is a great example for all members of our program to emulate,” said Lim. “Joey is known to be available to help any of his teammates, whether it be academically, with the military Chain of Command, or for any personal advice that he is asked for.”

Both athletes have this in common; knowing the skills they have learned on the rink will give them both opportunities to lead out in the field.

Post graduation, May intends to participate in the Infantry Platoon Commander Program in New Brunswick. Pruneau has already completed Phase Two of the Infantry Course and is looking at multiple options, including switching into Infantry from his current position as Logistics Officer, or pursuing an MBA in grad school.

“I want to make sure I put in the same kind of effort into my military training that I do with my schooling and hockey,” said May.

“A lot of my friends are Infantry so I talked to them about it, and it really seemed interesting,” Pruneau said. “It’s a really tough decision because I want to make sure what I’m going to choose is what I really want to do.”

Regardless of where they end up in the military, both are confident that the skills they learned from RMC both as an officer cadet and as a hockey player, will give them the skills necessary to thrive.

“Hockey and RMC have taught me different lessons, but if you put them all together, I think it really eases you into your job afterwards and role with the military,” said Pruneau. “RMC was one of the best experiences of my life, especially leadership wise. I’ve never been in such a leadership environment, and you can never be 100% ready, but I feel a lot more confident than when I started.”

May echoes Pruneau’s sentiments and also expresses the preparation both the hockey team and time at the college have given him for a role in the military.

“I didn’t think too much about the military initially, but as I dug deeper into it, I saw how my experiences playing hockey and being a teammate may transfer well into the military,” said May.

“At the end of the day, the combat arms work in groups and units and it’s very much a team atmosphere and environment. It’s something I’ve always done well in, being able to work with a group that I can rely on and that rely on me.”

With some former hockey players already in the combat arms like Matthew Michie, Matthew Muller, Nick Bissonnette and the previously mentioned van Schubert, it’s safe to say the hockey team and college have continued their legacy of producing strong leaders for the military and beyond.

“I’m very proud of the leaders we produce year after year,” said Coach Lim. “Our goal has always been to develop strong hockey players on the ice and inspiring leaders off of it. We are honoured that both Ben and Joey have continued that legacy and now have the opportunity to head out and lead our men and women in uniform.”

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