MONTREAL— In the grand scheme of things, Jonathan Drouin‘s gesture of donating $500,000 over a 10-year period to the Fondation du centre hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal and committing to raise another five million for the cause through various initiatives over that time will have a deeper impact than anything he’ll do on the ice as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Drouin could prove to be the No. 1 centre the Canadiens have been missing for over 20 years, he could very well go on to score a point per game in each of the six seasons he’s under contract for, and he’ll be given the keys to the city if he turns out to be the key figure in helping this team break from its 24-year Stanley Cup drought.
But those accomplishments would pale in comparison to changing people’s lives with his money and with his time.
"When the people from the foundation approached me to become one of their ambassadors I was immediately interested and had the desire to get involved," Drouin said from the hospital on Tuesday.
It was after a rigorous practice in Brossard, Que., that he put on a fine blue suit and made his way east to St. Denis Street, where he began his press conference with two bits of good news: First that he would be playing in his first game as a member of the Canadiens when they host the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre Wednesday, and second that he was making this financial and personal commitment. Then he posed for pictures with members of the board—all of them holding up the first installment of $50,000 Drouin will pay annually.
Canadiens legend and hockey Hall of Famer Serge Savard was on hand for the event, as was current Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.
"In our day we made the rounds to the hospitals just like the players do now," said Savard. "But to have a guy like Jonathan donating this first $50,000 cheque… I don’t know if he knows this, but that amounts to the salary I pulled in through my first five years with the Montreal Canadiens."
It’s a substantial contribution, and Drouin’s intention to get other people involved in the cause is just as important. All of it signifies that he has considered what his legacy in Montreal might one day look like and that he’d like for it to be about more than just goals scored and assists registered in a Canadiens uniform.
In that regard he’s following in the footsteps of the late, great Jean Beliveau, who made as big of a name for himself off the ice as he did on it by donating to various causes and starting his own foundation in 1971. He’s taking from the example Saku Koivu provided in raising $8 million to pay for a PET scan machine his foundation donated to the Montreal General Hospital several years ago. And he’s certainly borrowing from Nashville Predators defenceman P.K. Subban, who announced two years ago that he was making a pledge to raise $10 million over a seven-year period for the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
"I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making," Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. "One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.
"But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities."
Whether hockey took Drouin to Halifax, N.S., for his major junior years or to Syracuse, N.Y., or Tampa Bay for his first years as a professional, Montreal has always been his community. He was born and raised an hour north of the city, played AAA hockey on the west island, and now his presence will be felt right in the heart of the metropolis for years to come.
"To be a part of this, I hope to inspire other young people and young adults to inform themselves on the foundation," said Drouin. "In closing I want to say that my commitment to the foundation is absolutely serious and sincere."
It’s also one of the most impactful things he can do with a portion of the $33 million he’ll be paid by the Canadiens over the coming years.
"Montreal is his home, it’s not just the city he plays for," said Walsh.
There’s no question this gesture is an affirmation of the fact.