Friday, May 29, 2020. 5:42 p.m.
If the National Hockey League has a stimulus package, it is nothing for the American Hockey League. When they ceased operations, the leaders of the AHL simply stated that they were going to focus on next season.
Yes, but when? With this pandemic still raging all over the world, it is impossible to have a precise plan for the 2020-2021 season. They do not have the means or the NHL television contracts to imitate them.
For young players, although the situation is not ideal, it is not catastrophic. For veterans like Steve Bernier, it’s a little more complicated. Even insecure. The 35-year-old Quebec striker no longer has a contract, he who signed another one-year, single-strand deal last July with the Islanders’ school club Bridgeport Sound Tigers. No question either of negotiating with Lou Lamoriello in the coming weeks.
“I know him, I’ve been with Lou for a long time, I had him as CEO in 2012 when I was in New Jersey. His way of thinking is this: we finish the Islanders season first and then we will see. He won’t be ready to speak with American League players or veterans like me until his season in NY is over. I also learned with Lou that you have to take care of what you can control and for me, it is to recover, train hard and prepare for any eventuality “he specifies.
Ah yes to recover … Because I forgot to mention to you that in addition to not having a contract, Bernier is in rehabilitation at the moment. He had a difficult year, occupying the injured list for most of the season.
“It started at training camp, I injured my right leg, my groin and my hip. I tried to keep playing, to get through and then I realized I had a sports hernia so I went to St. Louis, I had surgery and I waited six weeks before trying to start playing again . But when I got back, the pain was still there even it got worse day by day, so we went to see another specialist and we saw that my hip had a labrum tear and something else was wrong not on the inside of the hip. So I had another operation three months ago. It has been a very difficult season but we are keeping our spirits up and I hope my body will recover 100% for years to come, “said the San Jose Sharks’ first choice in 2003.
Bernier says it is the first time in 10 months that he has had no more pain so he is optimistic about his future as a hockey player. He especially doesn’t want to hear about retirement. At least for the moment.
“I would like to continue playing for several reasons. First, I have my family with me here in Bridgeport. Everyone loves it, my kids have lots of friends there. Second, last year was an extremely difficult year and I am very disappointed with that, so I would like to end on a good note because the year before I had a superb season (42 points in 62 games) so I know the last campaign was just a bad patch. “
Steve Bernier talks about coming back to Bridgeport. He never mentions a return to the National League. He put a cross on it. ” It’s sure and certain. Last year I signed a one-strand American League contract, I came here for my personal satisfaction, of the accomplished duty, to be able to play hockey again with young players who have just entered the league with full of energy. It’s fun to be part of that but also to be here as a mentor for them and try to improve them as much as possible. It’s fun to be here and see the young people arriving at the start of the year and see their progress, it’s quite extraordinary to see, ”said Bernier.
I listen to his words and tell myself that he already has the mentality of a coach. He replies that his future plans are totally in this direction. “Yes, 100%. There are a lot of things I see myself doing in hockey. It’s so satisfying to see a player improve, it’s not necessarily because of me, but when you see it, you see it go to the next level, I find it fun. “
So when will retirement be?
“I am giving myself another chance to play but at the moment I am thinking of my rehabilitation, training, trying to skate as much as possible when we will of course have the right and wait. But it sure is in my head. Uncertainty is difficult, “concluded Steve Bernier.
With the resilience he has shown over the past few months, he certainly deserves a final round before teaching his art to the youngest.