When professional ice hockey player Josh Beaulieu was traded to the Evansville IceMen in 2011, he had little idea four years later he would be calling the city his adopted home.
His path from being an outsider as a Comber, Ontario, native to enrolling his oldest son in Evansville’s school system began when he was traded from the Rapid City Rush based in Rapid City, South Dakota.
“I had just gotten to Evansville, my wife was pregnant at the time, and we were only able to practice on the ice at the Ford Center a few times,” says Beaulieu, who played wing. The newly built Ford Center opened in November 2011. “I knew it was going to be a special night. It was a good opportunity to make a moment out of it.”
And make a moment he did — Beaulieu scored the first two goals in the 11,000-seat arena. The performance earned him a place in fans’ hearts and his continued success on the ice kept him there. He holds the team record for games played in the blue and white jersey of 159 contests. He also ranks second in goals (58), assists (68), and points (126). He set a career high in goals with 24 during his first season with the IceMen, and a career best 30 assists during his second.
On Feb. 22, 2013, Beaulieu was in his second season with the IceMen before being cut by an opposing skaters’ blade, which severed an artery in his right wrist. The injury did not end his playing career, but it left him with permanent damage that would not fully heal.
“It was a battle in the offseason to get ready,” says Beaulieu. “I still enjoyed playing hockey, but obviously I was dealing with such a severe injury. The idea of coaching after playing came hand in hand.”
In his third season with the IceMen, he scored 12 times in 45 games, but the long and tough recovery process made him look ahead to the next step in his career.
The 28-year-old sat down and discussed his future options with the IceMen and hoped to stay on with the organization and remain in Evansville with his wife and two young sons — 5-year-old Ryan and 3-year-old Tyler.
“I like Evansville,” says Beaulieu on wanting to stay in the city. “It has everything my wife and I need to raise a family. My oldest son is starting school soon and there is a great school system here, and we are really involved in the youth hockey programs. We have built a lot of great friendships and relationships. This is a great place to call home and we enjoy everything Evansville has to offer with its entertainment and parks.”
To keep Beaulieu on, Owner Ron Geary created the first full-time assistant coaching position ever for his East Coast Hockey League franchise. In November, he became the first IceMen player to have his number retired and his No. 20 jersey hung in the rafters.
“It is great to be out there during practice and I’ll catch myself looking up there at it time and time again,” says Beaulieu. “It is a great accomplishment for my family. Everybody worked hard and put as much blood, sweat, and tears into it as I did. We all share it.”
Beaulieu has already embraced the newfound responsibility and was called up to serve as interim head coach during the transition between former head coach Dwight Mullins and current coach Al Sims in January.
“I have to thank Ron Geary for opening the doors,” he says.
For more information about the Evansville IceMen, call 812-421-4625 or visit theevansvilleicemen.com.