MONTREAL – Before making his mark on soccer pitches worldwide, Patrice Bernier showcased his hockey prowess over the course of several seasons in the QMJHL playing alongside the likes of Roberto Luongo, Steve Begin and Jean-Pierre Dumont. While he knew full well that he’d never don the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, Bernier remained a loyal Canadiens fan despite his passion for soccer above any other sport. The canadiens.com crew met up with the Montreal Impact captain to learn more about his love for the Habs.
Are you a long-time Habs fan?
PATRICE BERNIER: I’ve been a Habs fan since I was very young. I’m from Brossard, so like every youngster from that area I support the Canadiens.
What is your earliest Canadiens memory?
PB: I was lucky growing up. I had the chance to see the last two Stanley Cup titles in Montreal. I might’ve only been six years old back in 1986, but I remember people celebrating everywhere.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
PB: Like many people from my generation in Montreal, I really liked the “Little Viking”, Mats Naslund. It was crazy watching him out there on the ice. He managed to do everything he wanted to.
At what point did you decide between soccer and hockey? Did you ever dream of playing in the NHL one day?
PB: When I was playing in the QMJHL in Val-D’Or, I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to make it to the NHL. I definitely dreamed about it at one point in time, but soccer was taking on more importance in my life. That’s why I decided to end my hockey career after my second season in the QMJHL when I was with Sherbrooke, and focus exclusively on soccer.
Did you ever think about playing both sports professionally?
PB: No. I never would have been to do what Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders did. Hockey and soccer seasons generally coincide. Let’s just say it would have been difficult to do.
How would you fare if you laced up the skates today?
PB: I put my skates back on for the first time in 2012 to play a pick-up hockey game for fun with friends. It was a bit tough to start. From time to time, I skate with my family.
Does the fact that the kick-off of the MLS campaign coincides with the end of the NHL regular season and the start of the playoffs pose a problem for you as a fan?
PB: When I was playing in Europe, I really wasn’t following hockey because of the time difference and it didn’t help that we had a jam-packed schedule. Since I’ve been back in Montreal, I do my best to stay up-to-date in my free time. One of my brother in-laws is a huge Habs fan, so he fills me in on all the latest news. I try to get to the Bell Centre to take in a game at least once a year.
What’s easier – A penalty shot in hockey or a penalty shot in soccer?
PB: Good question. I think a player taking a penalty shot in hockey is at a disadvantage from the start. The goaltender has control and a player has to capitalize on a mistake to score a goal. Even if the net is much bigger in soccer, it’s not as easy to score as most people think. Goalkeepers are getting better and better and it’s getting more and more difficult to score.
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Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Hab at heart : Ginette Reno