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My Journey to the NHL - Steve Bernier

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Life hasn't always been glamourous and easy for Steve Bernier.

The pressures that come with being a first-rounder build character and in five short years, helped him grow into the player and the person that he is today. At just 23 years old, he's experienced the high of being drafted and the lows of media scrutiny but through it all, he's smiled and remembers the lessons he learned on the way..

Growing up in a hockey-crazed town, it was the one thing that gave his mother some piece of mind and kept him out of trouble. 

Bernier shares his tales on his road to the NHL.
How old were you when you got your first pair of skates?

I would say probably three years old.

I remember my first time going to the hockey pond back home in Quebec City when I was three and a half, maybe four years old. My father used to play hockey, not in the NHL but it was his passion and I guess he just transferred his passion me and my younger brother. He’s two years younger and probably started skating not long after I first started.

What was your first hockey team?

I cannot tell you the name of it but it was Mag, like Mag 1 or Mag 2, and it’s when you start at four and five years old. It was for my first two years but I can’t remember the name of the team. It was half the rink, so there were two teams this side and two teams on the other side. I remember because I saw video of it a couple years ago.

For parents, I guess the best thing to see is your son just starting to play hockey and having fun because it’s all about having fun. From what I saw, I was pretty slow but I was twice as big as everybody else. I wasn’t moving very fast but I could shoot the puck from what I saw and I scored a couple goals.

Growing up, the rink was my...

Second home

How did you get into hockey?

My mom always wanted to make us do something instead of just hanging around. She knew what we were doing when we were at the rink, when we were playing hockey instead of us running around. I think she liked the idea of playing hockey.

In Canada, the only sport you can play and do something of it in the end and hockey’s one of them. My father played hockey for a long time so I think the best idea was for me to play hockey.

My dad played until just before junior. I was talking to my uncle and he was a good player but sometimes when you’re not that big, it’s tougher to go higher.

Was there another influence in your life?

I used to play soccer when I was younger, just in the summers. I’m not very good at it so I decided to quit when I was 12 years old.

What is your favourite hockey memory?

It’s wining Air Canada Cup in midget AAA, right before juniors. We won the Canadian championships in Prince George in BC. That was my favourite moment for sure. It was with the les Gouverneurs de Ste-Foy. I actually scored the overtime goal in the final.

It was something very special and we had a very good group of guys that I’m still in touch with. One of my best friends that plays for Edmonton, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, he was on my team when we won the cup.
Who was your hockey hero?

Mario Lemieux. I think his size, how big he is, how fast he skates, how good his hands were, he was a righty like me so when you start playing hockey in the streets, you imagine yourself playing like him and he was my hero.

I never had the chance to play against him but that would’ve been awesome. I’ve never met him but playing against his team is good enough.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I would say, always when you’re trying go up, what you’re doing on the ice is never going to be enough, you can always improve. I think people always told me, if you’re doing great, that’s good but you can do better and I think that’s one thing that always stayed in my mind. Still, now, I’m playing in the NHL but everyday I can improve. This is something from both my parents say to me. If you look at the best player in the League, you don’t want to compare yourself to them because you want to just be the best that you can do and work as hard as you can.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to get to the NHL?

In my career so far – I’m only 23 – I’ve seen so many players and we’ve got the best example in the room with Alex Burrows, is never quit. Sometimes you can have a tough time and the only way to get through it is to work hard. Everybody’s going to be different, but everything happens for a reason and you just need to work hard to get through it.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to the NHL?

I always had a reputation right after the draft that I wasn’t working out enough and I was not in very good shape and that was very tough. You know during the summer, you work so hard and you go into the team and do all the testing, every year it was the same thing coming back. It’s not fun and it was very tough.

This summer I came to Vancouver and I didn’t hear it anymore, I came one month early to train with Roger. He did a great job with me so far but it’s been tough for the last five years.

How do you deal with that?

What can you do? You just need to do, like Kyle Wellwood, I’m one guy but he’s been way worse than me.

The way he’s come out – he’s got 12 goals so far in the year. He’s worked through it and now he’s fine and I need to just keep going the same way.

Do you ever still get the feeling like this is unbelievable that you've made it here?

For sure. You don’t see how big it is. The first couple of games you play, you’re like ‘Wow, I’m in the NHL’ and now, I’ve played – not a lot, just 200 games – I think ‘Wow, I cannot go higher.

It’s where I want to be, it’s always where I wanted to play and now the toughest thing is to stay here. The only way to do it is to work hard everyday.
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