Steve Bernier is playing in his fourth season with the Moncton Wildcats and once again is among the leading point scorers of the QMJHL. The hulking power forward was selected 16th overall in the 2003 Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. He has continued to develop his game since then, particularly working on the often unrecognized defensive aspect of his game, something which has steadily improved since entering major junior hockey.
Bernier’s overall skill level has increased dramatically as well. Although his point totals look to be in decline after his amazing 101-point sophomore season, it is evident from watching his play every night that Bernier is evolving into a more complete player. Some reports have indicated that had there been no NHL lockout Bernier would not have been playing with Moncton this season, but may instead have made a run to make the Sharks. Regardless of where he could have been playing, Bernier is with the Wildcats and is another key cog in the team’s currently successful season, including serving as team captain for the months of September and November.
The past week has been extremely busy for Bernier. After the Wildcats defeated the arch rival Halifax Mooseheads on Friday by a score of 3-2, Bernier then helped the ‘Cats knock off visiting Victoriaville 4-0 by contributing a goal and an assist on the night. He and teammate Nathan Saunders then travelled to Quebec City where they participated in the two-game QMJHL vs. Russia Challenge. After finishing the second game in Montreal the duo flew back to Moncton for a game Wednesday night against Shawinigan. After taking a tough 2-0 loss, Bernier spoke with HF about his play, recent experiences, and told HF a little bit about himself. Bernier was scheduled to leave at 8am the next day for a three games in three nights road trip starting in Victoriaville.
HF: How do you think the season has gone for you so far?
SB: Personally I think it go pretty well. I don’t have as many points as the best scoring leader in the league but I think we got a good team, we play good defensively, and in fact, they will come sooner or later.
HF: How would you describe your own style of play?
SB: In general my job is to finish my check, to get the puck for my teammates. I like to be around the net to take the rebound. That’s basically my job.
HF: This summer you attended the WJC Summer Development Camp. What was that experience like?
SB: Oh yeah that was fun (smiling). I’ve been there….this was my second year this summer. The first summer I went there it was tough but I think the experience was good. I went there really and I think I had a pretty good camp but like everyone knows this year there’s going to be a pretty good team, Canada is going to have a good team so that’s going to be tough to make the team.
HF: Did you enjoy playing the QMJHL vs. Russian Challenge?
SB: Oh yeah that was fun. It was fun to – I don’t know how to say, the routine. Like go play with somebody else, play against Russia, it’s always fun because it’s open with no red line. I think that’s something fun, go to Montreal and Quebec City, that’s two big cities to play hockey in.
HF: How did you like playing with the two Rimouski players you played with most of the time?
SB: Yeah I play…when I was young with them, so yeah.
HF: With those two guys?
SB: Yeah, yeah. I play every year with them. That’s a year now we didn’t play together , that was fun to come back together and we play well, we did play well.
HF: Was it a compliment to be selected as the first shooter in the shootout?
SB: Ah, I think he was rolling the…I was supposed to shoot the first game. But I didn’t shoot and I was the first one up next. It’s always fun to go shoot in penalty shot, but when you miss its something else.
HF: You played extremely well in the two games. Do you think that increases your chances of making the WJC team even though its going to be a really tough squad to crack?
SB: I don’t think that it can, that just that can improve my chance to go to the camp. I can’t decide anything. They have the last call and I’m just going to wait and play the best hockey I can on the ice and I just hope that I’m going to be invited.
HF: If you were to make the team, would it be awkward to have to line up against your teammate Adam Pineault if you played the US?
SB: (laughing) On the team? Oh yeah. He’s already in the team right now. We talk a lot about that, but I don’t want to talk about that right now because I’m not in the team and I know that’s going to be tough to make the team. I just keep in mind about that. We just joke around about that.
HF: Do you expect to make the jump to professional hockey next year?
SB: Expect? Um, for sure I want to make the big step. I know I went this summer to the camp and I know that it’s going to be tough. I know this summer I trained hard, but that I need to train harder next summer. And for sure I want to take the step but I’m going to take it one step at a time.
HF: Do you think you will need to spend time with Cleveland (AHL) before going up to San Jose?
SB: I think San Jose is going to make the decision for what is best for me. For sure I want to make the big step first of all but I just have to play very well.
HF: How much attention do you pay to what is being said or written about you by the media?
SB: For sure, like every player, I read evertything about me, but they have their opinion. I’m on the ice, I play the best I can, and I can do nothing to change that. I just read for fun.
HF: When you’re not at the rink or travelling, how do you spend your time?
SB: I like to go to see a movie, I like to go shopping, cause in Moncton there (laughing) where else to go?
HF: (also laughing) What else are you going to do?
SB: Shopping and a movie, that’s all!
HF: Do you read a lot when travelling?
SB: I start to read this summer because I need to improve my English. It’s tough, it’s tough to improve. I try to read some book and I think it definitely will help me.
HF: Whose your favourite author/movie?
SB: John Grisham. I like to read John Grishman.
HF: Have you been following CBC’s “Greatest Canadian” show at all?
SB: Ummm, no.
HF: Just out of curiosity, who would you say would be the one person you’d select as the “Greatest Canadian”?
SB: Greatest Canadian? For me I’d say Mario Lemieux, that’s my favourite player. Like, since I’m (gesturing “when I was young”), young. So Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.