I am from Grenoble, France, where I started playing hockey at the age of 3. I loved hockey ever since I was little because my dad played professionally for a long time and my mother is a figure skating instructor. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to play at the highest level possible and for as long as I could.
I am thankful that my uncle, who played NCAA tennis, shared his experiences with me and let me know at age 15 that I probably would have the chance to do the same with hockey. Since getting a degree was also very important to me and my parents, nothing made more sense than trying to go play NCAA hockey. Looking back now after playing 15 years as a professional, I can easily say that accepting a scholarship from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in the fall of 1998 was one of the best things that had ever happened to me. The four years I spent there as a student-athlete are full of the best memories, experiences, and ongoing friendships. Only America allows you to combine your sport and academics at such a high level.
When I showed up on campus I was amazed by how nice our rink, our gym, our coaching staff were. Absolutely everything was in great quality, we had all the resources to become better athletes while pursuing a college degree.
I really felt like I was part of something special. Living on campus you instantly develop strong friendships with teammates and other student/athletes that are going through the same challenges as you. You feel like you are part of a big family and the sense of pride that you develop for your school is a very special feeling that has to be lived to be understood. Today I am so thankful to the program that has allowed me to experience so much in life.
I was able to get drafted in the NHL, sign my first professional contract, and compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics during my senior year while completing my BA in marketing. I was truly blessed to have teachers that understood the challenges I was going through. They always took the time to help me when I couldn’t be in the classroom because of the Olympics.
I always recommend that other young student-athletes take the same route as I did because those years were the best four years of my life. Of course, there is a lot of hard work that goes into the wanted outcome, but if you’re passionate about what you do, it truly doesn’t seem like work. Nothing will prepare you better for life after school whether you keep playing professionally or enter the “real world”.