Interview with a Drakkar : André Menard

received_10207846581502996You want it, you get it! Here you will find the English version of André interview. I have to thank André himself who translate the text, so this is more than authentic.

Released from Courbevoie during training camp, Andre Menard is the wild card in the Caen defensive core. By coming to Caen he brings with him an interesting mix of a forward learning his defensive role to continue his sports career, coupled with an objective to find his post-hockey career. Formed in the United States, he is linked to France by his double nationality, which gives him an interesting perspective on the development in the two countries.

Fanatics: Andre, you started this years training camp in Courbevoie, where you played for the past 3 years. How did you end up in Caen?

Andre: This off season they added a second coach to their staff, who was an old coach of Reims and really likes Finnish players. 3 days after I got to training camp they told me that they found a player to take my spot. I didn’t have a lot of time or options seeing as though most teams had already signed all their players. Last year I was working for a consulting company and had a job opportunity this year with BNP Paribas. I was excited to be able to combine both hockey and work but obviously this changed that situation. I wasn’t mentally ready to give up the game of hockey so I started calling around different teams to see what was out there. I ended up calling my good friend Udo Marie who I had played with for 2 years in Courbevoie and he put me in contact with Luc here in Caen. Luc called me and said he was missing a defensemen so if it interested me I could come try out and see if I could fill the spot.. The other opportunities that I had were in cities that didn’t appeal to me as much and I had visited and loved Caen before so I figured why not!

Fanatics: How would you describe your style of play?

received_537195023112410Andre: I am currently in the middle of adapting that a bit right now because of my new role but before I would say I was a grinder/hard working player. Im not the most talented guy in the world, but I have some speed and like to play an intense game. I also like to play the physical aspect a bit more than typical Europeans, which is a bit harder to implement here on big ice compared to the small ice in Courbevoie.

Defense has been a nice change and I’ve adapted pretty quickly. I am always looking to learn though so I am consistently talking with other defensemen or Luc on things that I need to do better. Play in the defensive zone and joining the rush have come pretty naturally, just need to make better decisions at the blue line.

Fanatics: What do you like about hockey in Caen?

Andre: I really like the structure of a real pro team here compared to Courbevoie. It was good for me originally because I was able to get my Masters degree and start working while I played there so for my career after hockey it was a good alternative. That is a primary reason why I stayed there for 3 years. Here in Caen it gives me the opportunity to experience a real pro structure that focuses just on hockey.

Fanatics: You already have a foot in the door in the working world, what is next for you?

received_537195033112409Andre: I am trying to decide if its my last season playing hockey, but I’ll see how the season turns out before I make my decision. I am currently passing the CFA exam to stay active in the finance world. If I find a way to keep playing hockey I would for sure jump on it, ready to move anywhere.

Fanatics: Why do you have the double nationality?

Andre: My father was born in France and my mother in Greece. I technically could have had a Greek passport too but with the EU now and having to serve 9 months in the military we decided against it. My parents came to the United States to get their PHD’s and decided to stay there after they were finished, so I was born and raised in there.

Fanatics: What was your hockey development path?

Andre: I started playing at 4/5 years old with travel teams similar to the formation in France. I played there until high school and played junior hockey for 2 years. Then I decided to go the University of Delaware which is a similar level to NCAA D3 for hockey. I fell in love with the school and the business program was better than the other D3 schools I was looking at. My senior year at school we won the ACHA D1 championship. Being captain and winning with a great group of guys was a great end to my college career. After I wanted to keep playing and knew I could have an o
pportunity to come to Europe and specifically France. I was in contact with a couple of teams (Caen included) and eventually decided on Courbevoie because of the flexibility to pursue other things outside of hockey.

received_537195053112407Fanatics: You have a view of both sides of the Atlantic, how would you compare the formation in France than with the USA/Canada?

Andre: I think the level of hockey in France is really improving across the board but I think a big downfall is the lack of education that goes along with hockey. I see many guys that at 18-20 years old stop their studies to play professionally, and while it may be great it isn’t easy to make a living just off of hockey in France. I’ve seen many guys not having anything to fall back on once their careers are over. I think it’s a mentality in all of Europe when it comes to sports. You have to pick school or sports at such a young age, but in the USA or Canada you have the chance to do both.

Fanatics: Does your jersey number have a story?

Andre: The two numbers that Ive worn my entire life were 20 and 9 which were both taken. I took 7 and 2 and when you add them together it makes 9! I wanted an unconventional defensive number regardless.

Fanatics: You know the level of D1 well, where do you see the Drakkars in the league?

received_537195026445743Andre: Our goal is to make the playoffs and go as far as possible once we get there. I think coming down from Magnus some of the guys underestimated the league. There is a lot of offensive talent in D1. I think we need to steal a couple of wins on the road and then keep playing well in front of the home crowd. I don’t think we are where we want to be right now but it doesn’t count now, it counts at the end of the season.

I think because of our structure and how much effort we put in (5 practices a week and 2-3 workouts) we should be able to be in better shape on the back end of the season.

Fanatics: A word for the supporters? Something to improve?

Thanks for all of your support so far this season! It shows with our record at home. I hope everyone continues coming to the rink to see us and we can try to entertain you the best we can! We can go far this year…go Drakkars!

All photos by Clémence LaScala

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