Former Blue Hen captain Andre Menard was able to answer a few of our questions. They ranged from his national championship victory as a Blue Hen to his professional hockey career in France.
What was your favorite moment as a Blue Hen?
Obviously my favorite moment as a Blue Hen was winning the National Championship. We had a good run my junior year and came up short in the semi finals, but I think our team learned a lot from that experience and it prepared us for the next year. We had a big senior class that had grown together for four years and then had added a lot of younger talent so we all knew it was the year to get it done. The entire year everyone assumed Penn State was going to easily win the national championship because they had recruits and a coaching staff for their transition to NCAA D1 but we knew we had a team that could make some noise. We had a couple of scares at the National Championship including a double OT thriller against Ohio in the quarters and then avenging our previous year loss in the semis to Lindenwood. The feeling after that win can’t be put into words. What we had accomplished as a group will forever sit as the best memory in my hockey career. Being the first team in the 40-year history of Delaware hockey was something really special. Getting messages from guys that had graduated years before we even showed up on campus made us realize that we didn’t just win it for ourselves but all the Delaware hockey family that had laid the groundwork to make it possible. I still find myself watching old youtube videos of our celebration on the ice or in the locker room and getting goose bumps three years later.
How do you feel playing at Delaware prepared you for playing professional hockey? Was the fact that you were the captain of the national championship team a big selling point?
The Delaware hockey culture was the biggest thing that prepared me for the transition into professional hockey. Hard work, intensity, and the team brotherhood that we had were things that I was able to carry with me into the professional level. I think the fact of being the captain of a national championship team was a key factor because the ACHA isn’t as well known in different professional leagues as the other college levels. I think that trend is starting to change and the league is starting to make a name for itself in professional hockey.
Was the jump from college to professional a big one? What extra expectations do they have for professional players over college players?
The jump from college to pro is a pretty big one. The fact that you are being paid to play adds a decent amount of extra pressure to preform. It’s like in any business; if you don’t do your job they will find someone else who will. You have guys sitting next to you in the locker room that are playing to provide for their families, which adds a different aspect to the game.
Could more Delaware players make the jump to professional?
I think other players from Delaware could make the jump to the next level due to the fact that the ACHA is gaining recognition. It just takes a lot of hard work and a willingness to take a chance to follow your dream.
How different is France from America?
France is pretty different than the United States. Obviously the language barrier is a big part of it but I was pretty lucky having European parents that spoke their native languages to me when I was young so I did have a good base in French already. Inside the locker room it is pretty interesting having guys from seven different countries trying to communicate to each other and bring a different culture to the group. There are definitely times of miscommunication but its all part of the learning process. The French culture outside of the ice rink is pretty different as well but living in a big city like Paris it becomes a melting pot and you meet people from all over which has been a great experience.
How successful was this year for you? Was the team able to accomplish its goals?
Unfortunately we had a pretty tough year as a team. My club, Courbevoie has one of the smaller budgets in Division 1 (2nd Division in France) so it’s always an objective to make playoffs but just staying in D1 is always a small victory in itself. Typically, the last two teams in the league drop down a division and the two finalists from the division below us come up. This year we had the team to make a playoff run but we had a few key injuries and a tough stretch in November/December that prevented that from happening. Regardless it was a fun year with a great group of guys.
By: Tyler Fitzpatrick