TORONTO – Mathieu Darche
is the perfect poster boy for perseverance.
After 11 years of paying his dues as a professional hockey player, Darche has become an overnight success in Montreal. With a career-high 12 goals and 25 points in his first full NHL campaign, it turns out all the 34-year-old needed to flourish was a little job security.
“Getting my first one-way contract this late, I have to thank my wife because we’ve moved around a lot so doing nine seasons with kids, if she would have said ‘I’ve had enough of this’ then I don’t think I would’ve been able to live my dream,” shared Darche, who was named the Canadiens’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy on Saturday. “She always stood by me because she knows I’m living my dream of playing professional hockey.”
The Darche clan is nothing if not well-traveled. Having lived everywhere from Columbus, Nashville, San Jose and Tampa in the NHL to Syracuse, Milwaukee, Hershey, Worcester, Norfolk, Portland and Hamilton in the AHL – not to mention a one-year stint in Duisberg, Germany – the St. Laurent native has finally found his niche a little closer to home.
“We don’t play for individual honors, but it’s nice to be recognized and rewarded. It’s a great honor and to get it from an organization like the Canadiens is even more special,” described the lifelong Habs fan. “All the years I spent in the minors, I’d look at guys that were getting called up and some of them ended up having great careers in the NHL and I’d think ‘Why can’t that be me?’ I’d get called up for a game here or there and that just motivated me even more that it was something I really had an opportunity to do.”
He also managed to find his greatest NHL inspiration in his own backyard.
“The biggest difference in my career was when I started working out with [Philadelphia Flyers’ forward] Ian Laperriere as a training partner. That really changed things,” explained Darche of his fellow Montrealer. “I was in pretty good shape when I started working out with him, but he’s such a hard worker and he’s so dedicated and such a great professional that watching him really helped push me to the next level. He was a great influence on me.”
A few aspiring NHLers in the Habs dressing room can say the same about Darche. Watching the undrafted winger make his way from the minors last year to one of the Canadiens’ top lines this season, prospects like Ryan White
and David Desharnais
have the perfect role model to look up to in Montreal.
“[Ryan and David] are probably seven years behind me as far as that – they’re still really young – but I remember when I was in the minors Alain Nasreddine ended up doing his first year in the NHL when he was 31 with Pittsburgh,” recalled Darche, who will play his 189th
career NHL game against the Leafs on Saturday night. “That made me see there was hope and at 31 I spent my first year up in Tampa.
“It’s not necessarily that you tell them anything specifically, but you hope that maybe they learn something about sticking with it,” he added. “When you’re not a high draft pick sometimes it’s harder to get a spot, but if you persevere and you work hard good things happen.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Watch: Darche's reaction to the Masterton nominationMathieu Darche is the 2010-11 Canadiens candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy Darche HighlightsMy Essentials: Mathieu Darche Mathieu Darche under contract for the 2010-11 season