Typically, Ontario Hockey League grads playing in France’s Ligue Magnus are few and far between. The league generally draws players from the QMJHL, the Czech Repulic and Slovakia, along with home grown talent. Recent OHL alumnus Andy Bathgate will be the exception in 2013-14, playing for the Diables Rouges (Red Devils) de Briançon in the 14 team league.
Bathgate played five years in the Ontario Hockey League from 2007-08 to 2011-12 with the Belleville Bulls and Plymouth Whalers. His first season consisted of just five games with the Bulls. Only his final year was played with the Whalers. Belleville selected him in the third round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, 54th overall. Over his OHL career, Andy played 240 regular season games, scoring 61 goals and assisting on 119 for 180 points. However, he played just 22 games in the Robertson Cup playoffs, a good portion in his final season with the Whalers. Over those 22 games, Bathgate contributed just eight points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Bathgate in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, 151st overall. His only North American professional action to date came in 2010-11 when he appeared in two games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
This past season, 2012-13, Andy played for the University of Guelph Gryphons in the OUA. He lead the team in goals and points in his rookie year with 16 goals and 32 points over 23 games. Bathgate was named the OUA West Rookie of the Year.
Diables Rouges de Briançon
Briançon was promoted to the Ligue Magnus for the 2002-03 season. The team reached the finals in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and were regular season champs in 2008-09. This past season, the Diables Rouges finished third in the 14 team league and lost in the semi-finals. The club plays their home games at the 2,150 seat Patinoire Rene Froger, a venue built in 1968. Briançon is a town in the Alps of southeast France on the border of Italy with a population of around 12,000.
The 14 team France elite league has each team play a 26 regular season schedule. The Ligue Magnus has a typical European style relegation and promotion system that would be so awesome to see in North America. Intermingled throughout the season is the Coupe de France. This is a playdown that starts with teams from all levels of hockey in France and culminates in a final game held in Paris.
The 2012-13 regular season champs were Angers. However, in the playoffs, Angers fell to Rouen in the finals. Rouen has won four straight championships and six out of the past eight years.
Andy is the grandson of his namesake, Andy Bathgate, that played 1,069 regular season games in the National Hockey League from 1952-53 to 1970-71 with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. This Bathgate also played in the OHL (OHA at the time). From 1949-50 to 1952-53, he was a member of the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters (or just Biltmores), winning a Memorial Cup championship with the team in 1951-52. The Biltmores are the present day Kitchener Rangers.