It's the dream of any child who has ever played hockey in Montreal. Rise through the ranks before making it to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. From there, maybe play in Europe before someday returning to the city.
Former junior hockey star Patrice Bernier is living that dream, with an interesting twist.
Bernier has become a star in Montreal, but instead of hockey, the former two-sport athlete is a standout for the Impact of Major League Soccer. (Photo: Montreal Impact / Charles-William Pelletier)
Sure, Bernier starred for the Val d'Or Foreurs and Sherbrooke Faucons of the QMJHL. And yes, he traveled through European leagues before becoming a hometown star in Montreal. The only thing is, Bernier quit hockey almost 15 years ago. It's a decision that has paid off for the midfielder with Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact.
"I played both sports until I was about 18. I went through all the rankings in soccer and hockey," Bernier, 33, told NHL.com. "I could have a tournament where I played hockey in the morning and then a soccer tournament in the afternoon. It was a bit draining -- 365 days of switching from soccer to hockey, sometimes in the same day."
As a 17-year-old, Bernier starred on defense for a Val d'Or team featuring 10 future NHL draft picks. His first year in junior hockey, the 5-foot, 9-inch blueliner led all Foreurs defensemen in scoring.
"Patrice was one of those guys you could tell was into soccer," said Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Bernier's defense partner in Val d'Or who logged 269 NHL games before playing for the Malmo Redhawks last season. "When you passed him the puck, sometimes, even if it was on his stick, he would try to handle it with his feet."