Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Yanni Gourde's Lightning callup 'a dream come true'

WASHINGTON — Yanni Gourde got the best wakeup call of his life Sunday morning at 11:19.

In bed in Syracuse, Gourde, playing for the Lightning's AHL affiliate, looked at his cellphone and saw assistant general manager Julien BriseBois was on the line.

"I didn't know (what he wanted)," Gourde said. "But I was like, 'It's interesting.' "

Gourde, 24, knew better than to assume anything. Nothing has come easily for the undrafted 5-foot-9, 167-pound forward from Quebec. A few years ago, Gourde was playing in Daly City, Calif., accepting a demotion to the East Coast Hockey League, seemingly light years from the NHL. He had studied civil engineering as a fallback.

But BriseBois' call changed his life. BriseBois told Gourde he was getting his first NHL callup to help the injury-ravaged Lightning, which is without five regular forwards. Gourde flashed a huge smile and turned to his wife, Marie, not needing words to break the news.

"I made her a sign, 'I'm moving up,' " Gourde said. "A dream come true."

Gourde had a storybook NHL debut Tuesday, his birthday, no less. He picked up his first career point in assisting on the tying goal of a 5-4 come-from-behind overtime win over the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Marie, along with Gourde's mother and two brothers, were in the stands.

"Of course there's always doubts in your mind," Gourde said. "You never know if it's really going to happen. It was a dream, but it's a long road. I kept working and kept giving it a second chance to see where it would go. It's a long road, but it's been great."

• • •

Roy Sommer thought this was "just a matter of time."

Sommer brought Gourde to AHL Worcester, the Sharks' affiliate, the coach having noticed the playmaker in Victoriaville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Gourde had racked up a league-leading 124 points (37 goals, 87 assists) in 2011-12 before going pro.

But after tallying just eight goals in 54 games in Worcester, Gourde wasn't re-signed.

"He was kind of in and out, trying to figure things out," Sommer said.

Gourde accepted a step down to the ECHL, appearing in eight games for the San Francisco Bulls.

"Not really on our radar at all," BriseBois said.

Gourde hoped to work his way back to the AHL.

"It gets very hard to do that, do that step back," Gourde said. "But it's very gratifying that I did that."

Said Sommer: "The kid stuck with it."

• • •

Gourde returned to Worcester in 2013-14 on a 25-game professional tryout and flourished. He averaged a point per game (four goals, 21 assists), gaining confidence while playing on the top lines and penalty kill.

"He was very tenacious, creative," Sommer said. "Shoot, he would create three, four, five scoring chances a game; that's hard to do coming out of (the ECHL). Coaches aren't stupid; if a guy is going to win you games and get you points, you're not going to not play him."

Gourde also caught Tampa Bay's attention. Scout Jamie Pushor pushed for him.

"(Pushor) emailed me one day, 'If you're looking for a player that's doing really well right now and might become available, you should keep your eye on Yanni Gourde,' " BriseBois said.

BriseBois kept track of Gourde, watching one of his games on the Internet. He noticed Gourde's hockey sense, competitiveness and adjustment to the pro game. Immediately after Gourde had finished his 25th game with Worcester, making him a free agent, BriseBois called Gourde's agent, asking if the forward had an offer from another team.

"What would it take to get him?" BriseBois asked the agent.

BriseBois offered a two-year NHL entry-level deal, figuring Gourde would be at least a good AHL player.

"And here we are today," BriseBois said Tuesday while watching Gourde's NHL debut.

Said coach Jon Cooper: "A pretty cool story, actually."

Up next

at Capitals,

7 Friday,

Washington TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Lightning Strikes

ESPN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun gives his take on Steven Stamkos' contract saga in this week's podcast at

Yanni Gourde's Lightning callup 'a dream come true' 12/16/15 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2015 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. This is no time for Jameis Winston to play hero


    Don't be a hero, Jameis.

    Do the right thing. Do what's best.

     Quarterback Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sits on the bench during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) 700070683
  2. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans previews 2017-18 NBA season, predicts Warriors will be dethroned


    Tampa isn't the greatest basketball market. In fact, it's just about the worst.

    Mike Evans and Jameis Winston celebrate after connecting for a touchdown against the Bears in September. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  4. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  5. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start


    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.