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Former P.E.I. Rocket Bonneau retires from playing, wants to coach


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Jimmy Bonneau made a career out of playing with hunger and passion.

He's looking at bringing those same qualities to his next career - behind the bench.

Bonneau played his final pro hockey game Saturday with the ECHL's Rapid City Rush.

"As a player I was getting older, (gaining) experience," Bonneau said Tuesday. "Now . . . hopefully I can land a job and be a young, hungry, passionate (coach) facing a new challenge."

The Baie-Comeau, Que., native became a fan favourite as a tough guy who could play with the P.E.I. Rocket when the team moved to Charlottetown from Montreal. The Island made such an impact on him he spends his off-seasons here.

The 31-year-old, who played 11 pro seasons in the ECHL and AHL, said Saturday was a tough day.

He couldn't eat or enjoy his normal pre-game nap. The lead-up to the game was tough as memories came back to him and emotions were stirred up.

When the puck dropped Bonneau's competitive nature took over and it was about winning the game.

After the Utah Grizzlies scored an empty-net goal late to seal victory the end was near.

"I got the tap from my coach to go play the last 35-40 seconds, kind of the victory lap if you will," Bonneau explained. "That one was extremely emotional. That's when you know it's over."

Since the news of his retirement became public, Bonneau said he has received more than 200 messages from former teammates, friends and people he has met through the game. It has helped put Saturday in perspective.

"It was one of the toughest of my life, also one of the best days of my life with how special the people made me feel," he said.

Bonneau said he's fortunate to have the best friends and family anyone can ask for, and their support helped him with his decision.

Bonneau said he saw the game change in recent years and knew the role of the enforcer was being phased out. This year, he fought three times.

He is sad to see fighting slowly being removed from the game.

"I got my chance to get a nice career with it. I am ecstatic with what I've accomplished," he said. "Even though it's a tough job, it's still a job that allowed me to do what I loved for as long as I have . . .  I am sad to see it go, but to ignore it's going would be putting my head in the sand."

Bonneau said he is excited about the next chapter of his life, but knows it is an ultra competitive field. He was in the process of packing on Tuesday and will be heading to his parent's home in Baie-Comeau for a few weeks before coming back to the Island.

He knows there will be times when he is sad his career is over, but he also knows his family and friends will help him through it.

"I can't let myself sit down and be sad," he said. "If you're sitting on your couch, you're going to miss the parade."

Need to know

Jimmy Bonneau

Who – A professional hockey player, who played with the P.E.I. Rocket for its first two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Hometown – Baie-Comeau, Que.

Age – 31.

Size, position – Six-foot-three, 220 pounds, forward.

The latest – Retired after Saturday's game. He has played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs, Cincinnati Cyclones and Rapid City Rush of the ECHL as well as Hamilton Bulldogs, Portland Pirates, Rochester Americans and Worcester Sharks of the AHL.

Jimmy Bonneau made a career out of playing with hunger and passion.

He's looking at bringing those same qualities to his next career - behind the bench.

Bonneau played his final pro hockey game Saturday with the ECHL's Rapid City Rush.

"As a player I was getting older, (gaining) experience," Bonneau said Tuesday. "Now . . . hopefully I can land a job and be a young, hungry, passionate (coach) facing a new challenge."

The Baie-Comeau, Que., native became a fan favourite as a tough guy who could play with the P.E.I. Rocket when the team moved to Charlottetown from Montreal. The Island made such an impact on him he spends his off-seasons here.

The 31-year-old, who played 11 pro seasons in the ECHL and AHL, said Saturday was a tough day.

He couldn't eat or enjoy his normal pre-game nap. The lead-up to the game was tough as memories came back to him and emotions were stirred up.

When the puck dropped Bonneau's competitive nature took over and it was about winning the game.

After the Utah Grizzlies scored an empty-net goal late to seal victory the end was near.

"I got the tap from my coach to go play the last 35-40 seconds, kind of the victory lap if you will," Bonneau explained. "That one was extremely emotional. That's when you know it's over."

Since the news of his retirement became public, Bonneau said he has received more than 200 messages from former teammates, friends and people he has met through the game. It has helped put Saturday in perspective.

"It was one of the toughest of my life, also one of the best days of my life with how special the people made me feel," he said.

Bonneau said he's fortunate to have the best friends and family anyone can ask for, and their support helped him with his decision.

Bonneau said he saw the game change in recent years and knew the role of the enforcer was being phased out. This year, he fought three times.

He is sad to see fighting slowly being removed from the game.

"I got my chance to get a nice career with it. I am ecstatic with what I've accomplished," he said. "Even though it's a tough job, it's still a job that allowed me to do what I loved for as long as I have . . .  I am sad to see it go, but to ignore it's going would be putting my head in the sand."

Bonneau said he is excited about the next chapter of his life, but knows it is an ultra competitive field. He was in the process of packing on Tuesday and will be heading to his parent's home in Baie-Comeau for a few weeks before coming back to the Island.

He knows there will be times when he is sad his career is over, but he also knows his family and friends will help him through it.

"I can't let myself sit down and be sad," he said. "If you're sitting on your couch, you're going to miss the parade."

Need to know

Jimmy Bonneau

Who – A professional hockey player, who played with the P.E.I. Rocket for its first two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Hometown – Baie-Comeau, Que.

Age – 31.

Size, position – Six-foot-three, 220 pounds, forward.

The latest – Retired after Saturday's game. He has played for the Long Beach Ice Dogs, Cincinnati Cyclones and Rapid City Rush of the ECHL as well as Hamilton Bulldogs, Portland Pirates, Rochester Americans and Worcester Sharks of the AHL.

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