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Montreal’s son comes home

Mathieu Darche is the first McGill alumnus to play in the NHL in the past 50 years. In 2000, Darche’s final season at McGill, he led the CIS in scoring. Since then he‘s played professional hockey at both the AHL and the NHL level. Despite leading five different AHL teams in goals, Darche was never given much playing time in the NHL until last year. He has played on the Montreal Canadiens since January 2010 and is having one of the best seasons of his career with 24 points  in 56 games. The Tribune recently sat down with Darche to discuss his unique path to the NHL.

After a decade of playing professional hockey, how do you look back at your time at McGill?

I’ve been quite few places but that’s where it started—I had so much fun playing here, you know, you meet great friends and great coaches so it’s always a place you cherish.

Very few NHL players make it out of the CIS. How were you able to succeed as a professional hockey player coming from the CIS?

It was an adjustment, but for my first three years pro I was lucky enough to have good coaches in the AHL that gave me a chance right away to have [an important] role instead of burying me right away on the fourth line. They let me play so I was able to catch up with the lack of games I had playing in university (the CIS schedule is half the length of the NCAA and other minor leagues). It took a long time but there are different paths to the NHL. But the bottom line is I’m there now.

How does it feel to finally play for your hometown Habs?

Like every kid growing up [around Montreal], I grew up idolizing this team. It’s a nice reward later on in my career after all the years I spent going up and down—more often in the AHL [than the NHL]. But it’s great being back in the NHL on my hometown team [that] I grew up idolizing.

How did it feel to lead five different AHL teams in scoring but never be given long periods of playing time in the NHL until the last couple years?

It’s always disappointing to not get called up, but every year I saw guys going up and making a career in the NHL and was like “I know I can play with them.” I played against those guys and I have nothing to envy. I just stuck with it and luckily it worked for me.

Why do you think you’re having your best season at the age of 34?

Better late than never. I always try and improve every year. Even now at 34, I still try to improve. You watch and learn over the years from the players you’ve played with, and you get a few things from different guys and you try and bring that to your game to improve.

What do you plan on doing when your hockey career comes to an end?

I hope I still have a few years left … but I’d like to stay in hockey in some sort of management capacity. I don’t know if I want to coach but I’d like to stay involved in the game one way or another.

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