The day before Gabriel Fortier’s NHL debut with the Lightning on Tuesday, he was texting his agent, Erik Lupien.

Fortier, 21, didn’t expect to play in the NHL this season, his first full game in the AHL Syracuse. The 2018 second-round pick dazzled some at training camp (including a hat trick in an exhibition game), but felt he still had a way to go. But after receiving the scoring call on Saturday night, which woke him up from his pre-dinner nap, he gladly spent a night in Charlotte due to a plane delay so he could arrive at that time- the.

Lupien knew that one person wouldn’t be surprised – his late father Gilles, the two-time Cup winner with the Canadiens who had worked with Fortier since he was 12. Lupien therefore sent Fortier a text referring to what his father always said to the undersized attacker. from Montreal.

“My boyfriend you are going to do it!”

(Buddy, you’ll get there!)

Gilles Lupien was in a way the godfather of Gabriel and his older brother Maxime, 23 years old. Their parents, Rock and Isabelle, weren’t making much money, so when the boys wanted to play in the big midgets, Gilles helped pay the fees. If they needed a stick, they called Gilles. “He always believed in us,” said Maxime, who now plays professionally in Switzerland.

Gilles died of bowel cancer in May at the age of 67, so he couldn’t celebrate his lifelong dream coming true on Tuesday in St. Louis, and again on Thursday in Tampa. But Fortier said Gilles was one of the first people he thought of when he got the call.

“He was watching,” Erik said. “And I’m sure he was proud.”

Fortier could get at least one more game on Saturday in Boston because