Meet the Press

Vigier not ‘lion’ that Simba still speaks to him

J.P. Vigier
Former Thrashers player and current Jets analyst J.P. Vigier appreciates an animated film that centers on "the character persevering and overcoming a battle." (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

J.P. Vigier was a 17-year-old playing junior hockey in his native Manitoba when The Lion King hit North American theaters. In another two years, his dues in the MJHL would pay off with a ticket to college at Northern Michigan University.

Granted, Disney’s 1994 animated hit hardly made the motivational difference in Vigier’s career, which amounted to 12 professional seasons and 213 games with the Atlanta Thrashers. But to this day, his absorption and assessment of the film speaks to his split stance over the boyhood-adulthood threshold he crossed in the mid-’90s.

“It really moved me and made me believe that anything is possible,” he told Pucks and Recreation. When pressed for more, he added, “The Lion King still hits home with dealing with adversity and being true to yourself.”

As late as his second full season in the pros, Vigier was proclaiming himself a “kid at heart” for his lasting interest in animated movies. He said as much in his profile in the 2001-02 Chicago Wolves yearbook.

Fast-forward 15 years, and he admits that passion has somewhat receded. Today, he has reunited with his old NHL employer in their current incarnation back in his native province, covering the Winnipeg Jets for TSN 1290 radio. In the offseason, which he insists is nonexistent for him nowadays, he runs an elite youth hockey camp, affording him little time to explore any touted theatrical releases.

Nonetheless, Vigier has kept a little of his inner critic and all of his more profound takeaways from the Simba saga, among other past delights. Much like the game he played for a living until 2012, he has decelerated the activity, but kept the memories and lessons to transmit to another generation.

To that effect, he fielded the following breakaway shots from Pucks and Rec editor Al Daniel (with some breakout passes coming from correspondent Eugene Helfrick).

Do you think an animated movie could, let alone should, ever win an Oscar for best picture?
“To win best picture, I feel there must be real characters in it, and most animation is now computer generated.”

Have you instilled this passion to your kids?
“Both my daughters enjoy watching a good movie with a bowl of popcorn. I see them getting carried away with the story and feel the pain and gain of the show they watch.”

It is now a common practice at pro hockey games to flash TV or movie clips on the jumbo screen, usually in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Are there any you particularly enjoy seeing at Bell MTS Place?
“Most of the tongue-in-cheek makes me laugh, but I don’t think there is one that is standing that far out in front of the others.”

Can you think of anybody you played with or any current NHL player who would make a great film character?
“Darcy Hordichuk (Thrashers winger from 2000 to 2002)…He had many sides to him, and was always there for a good laugh.”

Many goalies have painted noteworthy cartoon characters on their masks. Do you have a favorite among those?
“None of those really hit home to me. I was about the character persevering and overcoming a battle. That was what hit home for me. Those long-shot stories reminded me to always keep working for what you really wanted.”

At your hockey camp, do you ever find yourself joining in conversations about movies?
“It does not happen as often as it used to, as kids now see movies that I have not seen. Or, when they throw out the funny lines, I am not up to date. So I tend to stay away unless they talk about the older shows. I guess that makes me old.”

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