Joe Juneau ’91 Moves Far North To Promote Hockey With a Cause
Former NHL and Rensselaer hockey standout Joe Juneau ’91 was inspired to once again take up a hockey stick, this time as mentor and director of a hockey program aimed at keeping young Inuit children in school and out of trouble.
Juneau, who retired from the Montreal Canadiens in 2004 and spent three years with an engineering technology firm, missed hockey and wanted to make a difference. On a vacation to Quebec’s far north Nunavik region, he was both inspired by the beauty of the arctic area and its Inuit people, and struck by the high rates of school drop-out, substance abuse, and violence that plagued the community.
In cooperation with a Nunavik corporation and government agency, Juneau launched the youth hockey development program in September 2006. The objectives are to develop young players and improve facilities, but more importantly, to improve school attendance and performance and promote crime prevention.
“This program is not a hockey school,” Juneau told the Globe and Mail in August. “This program is a social program. We’re using hockey as a tool.”
After taking monthly flights from his home near Quebec to several of the 14 Inuit villages in Nunavik, where he works with the communities to improve facilities and train local trainers as well as players, Juneau decided the best way to make the program work would be to live there. So he packed up his family, including daughters ages 6 and 7, and moved to Kuuj-juaq, the largest of the villages, with a population of 2,000. While challenging, Juneau considers the move a great opportunity for his family. “We’re not just here to have fun, but to accomplish something,” he told CanWest News.
Juneau, who grew up in Pont-Rouge, Quebec, has been a role model and idol to Canadian youth. He was a two-time national All-American with the Engineers, a silver medalist for Canadian hockey at the 1992 Winter Olympics, and played 12 seasons with the NHL.
Featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams on Nov. 16, Juneau said of his new venture, “Every day is a day that you feel you’ve accomplished something good.”