WOONSOCKET — Here’s hoping that Bryan Berard succeeded in knocking off the skating rust last week at Adelard Arena.
It’s one thing to glide around the ice while having a good time with your high school buddies, along with the Mount St. Charles hockey alumni who preceded your time on Logee Street. Come New Year’s Eve, a much bigger audience will be watching Berard as the Woonsocket native and former Mountie standout joins forces with legends and greats of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise.
Hailed as the alumni game portion of the Winter Classic, the outdoor matchup between past Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will take place at Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers. There are two alumni games on tap Tuesday at 1 p.m. and 3. Berard will be featured in the 3 o’clock face-off.
Berard’s tune-up for what awaits him Tuesday afternoon came in conjunction with the annual Mount St. Charles hockey alumni game that was held hours before the puck dropped on the MSC Holiday Face-Off.
“Out of shape, but it was nice to go out there and have some fun,” the 36-year-old Berard chuckled when asked how he felt physically after skating for an hour-plus with his MSC hockey fellows.
Judging by the look on Berard’s face when the subject of taking the ice with a complete roster of NHL’ers came up, it’s an honor that means a great deal to him. The Maple Leafs, for whom Berard suited up for in 1998-99 and 1999-00, were the ones who reached out to their former defenseman.
“It will be nice playing with guys I played with like Mats Sundin and Tie Domi or grew up watching like Wendel Clark. It’s going to be fun,” Berard smiled.
Berard’s last NHL game was in 2008 before he ventured to Russia to skate in the Kontinental Hockey League for 25 games during the 2008-09 campaign. His career comes with an asterisk that reads “what could have been” after suffering a major eye injury in March 2000.
To his credit, Berard was able to come back and compete for several more years. He ended up logging 10 seasons in the NHL after getting selected with the top overall pick in 1995 by the Ottawa Senators.
“I miss playing, but when it was time to retire, I was done with the game,” Berard stated.
Though his home base is New York City, Berard ventures to Rhode Island quite a bit as part of his responsibilities with WhaleRock Point Partners, LLC., a finance firm based in Downtown Providence.
“I travel back and forth quite a bit,” noted Berard, whose day-to-day duties include business development and facilitating meetings.
Berard still has a strong attraction to the sport – he was at Adelard Arena recently to watch his nephew in an instructional-league setting. In fact, he’s looking to re-attach himself with one of his former NHL clubs in a mentoring capacity.
“I have no desire to coach or anything like that, but I would like to get back into management and/or player development, working with younger players,” he said. “Hopefully if the right opportunity comes, that’s something I’ll be interested in.”
Given he laced up his skates for the Boston Bruins in 2002-03 and is a frequent visitor to Providence, Berard’s knowledge and professional involvement could prove beneficial in a up-and-coming setting like the Providence Bruins. Berard also have alumni ties to both New York NHL teams as he broke into the league with the Islanders in 1996 and logged 82 games for the 2001-02 Rangers.
“Just being able to talk from experience. I think that’s the best because the kids will listen, especially when you’ve dealt with a lot. It’s something I look forward to doing,” Berard said. “I would like to stay in the East Coast and around my family. Time will tell. We’ll see.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03