The son also rises

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

LONDON -- Diane Pouliot is proud of her three boys. Proud of what they have accomplished, despite the difficulties their family from St. Isidore have endured over the last few years.

She was at the London Hilton yesterday, beaming like any delighted parent would, when her middle son, Benoit, accepted the trophy as the Canadian Hockey League's rookie of the year.

But she also had a heavy heart, knowing that her late husband would have enjoyed the moment every bit as much as she did.

Sylvain Pouliot died on Valentine's Day, 2004, of leukemia. He had a bone marrow transplant and the cancer had gone into remission, but it returned and took away his life.

"I was wishing that he would be here to see this, because that would have been his greatest dream, to see where Benoit is right now," said Diane Pouliot. "It would have been magical, because he was really looking forward to this."

Going to the arenas throughout Eastern Ontario to watch their boys play had become so much a part of their life.

Sylvain coached his boys in hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer.

The Sudbury Wolves saw something in the tall, skinny kid and picked him in the 11th round of the 2002 OHL draft.

He went to camp the first two years, but was sent home to St. Isidore both times.

Sylvain Pouliot felt that his son should have stayed in Sudbury after the 2003 camp, but Diane believes it was for the best that her son was close to home that year.

"There was a reason why he came back and unfortunately the reason was Sylvain started to be sick again and he passed away two months later," she said. "I think it meant a lot for Benoit to be there that last winter."

Benoit spent most of the 2003-04 season with the CJHL's Hawkesbury Hawks, the same team his younger brother Hugo, helped lead to this year's league and Fred Page Cup championships.

But the Wolves needed a player in February of 2004 and called on Pouliot for a couple of games.

Benoit scored his first OHL goal on Feb. 13, 2004 against Mississauga. After the game, he called Diane and asked her to tell his father about the goal.

'WANTED TO DIE AT HOME'

"He was a little bit out of it because it was the night before he died," said Diane. "I'd say he was in a semi-coma. He was at home. He wanted to die at home.

"I told him about the goal and he looked at me and he said, 'I knew it.' Those were the last words he spoke to me."

Diane said she isn't sure the meaning of those words -- whether he meant he knew their son had the talent to play in the OHL.

"I don't know if he had a vision or something," she said. "That's all he said. I'm still wondering what it was that he meant."

Benoit played four games for the Wolves during the 2003-04 regular season and returned to Sudbury for another four games during the 2004 playoffs.

At home in St. Isidore last summer, he went on a weight training program and ate a lot to gain 30 lbs. of muscle before heading back to training camp.

He led the OHL in rookie scoring with 67 points (29 goals) and added 14 points in 12 games during the playoffs before the Wolves were eliminated by the Ottawa 67's in the second round.

He's a top prospect for the next NHL draft -- whenever that will take place -- but yesterday Pouliot thought about how proud his father would have been to see him with the rookie trophy.

"I'm sure he still sees me right now, though," said Pouliot. "It's a great honour for me, and it's a great honour for him."

And it's a great honour for the entire Pouliot family -- David, Benoit, Hugo and Diane.

"My boys have been my reason to live," said Diane. "They've been very good to their mother, and I'm proud of all of them.

"They're very good boys."


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