Simon Pinard is a bit of an adventurer. The Drummondville, QC native didn’t hesitate for a second to move to the neighbouring province in order to pursue his studies in English.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NHL, but only a minority will make it,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s very important to have a good second option, because hockey doesn’t last forever. After my time at the major junior level, I received a few offers to play pro, but it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking for.”
So he decided to pack up and head to New Brunswick where he’d join the powerful University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds, in the USports Canadian university circuit.
The Quebecer was determined to continue playing hockey all while pursuing his studies in business administration.
“The best option for me was the Reds, who are always one of the top university hockey teams in Canada,” he says.
The winger, who first played for the Armada and the Olympiques, says he adapted very quickly to his new environment.
“I lived in Blainville and Gatineau, two cities that are mostly French speaking. So, I had to get used to living in English and integrate it into my routine. It was a little different at first, but it happened pretty quickly,” he states.
Maybe even a little too much, in fact!
“When I came home for the Holidays, we went out to a restaurant with my parents and everyone spoke French. It kind of caught me off guard!” he laughs.
Fortunately for Pinard, he’s not the only one who speaks French in New Brunswick’s capital, as QMJHL alumni Benjamin Corbeil and Samuel Richard are also part of his team.
In terms of language, there’s no problem on the academic side either.
“I have a certain facility with English,” admits Pinard. “I took a lot of English classes when I was younger, all the way through college.”
University hockey, however, is obviously very different from what he experienced in the Q during his time with the Armada and the Olympiques.
“It’s a great league. It’s not often talked about, but the caliber of play is pretty high,” he admits. “The biggest difference with junior hockey? I’d say it hits a little bit harder. The players are all older, and bigger.”
Although he’s just a rookie, the left winger is very happy with the role his coaches have given him so far.
“I have a pretty offensive role. My coach gives me ice time on the power play, but also on the penalty kill. I really can’t complain,” said the man who suits up for Gardiner MacDougall, the same coach who helped the Saint John Sea Dogs win last year’s Memorial Cup.
“I just want to make sure I give it my all, every game, to keep that role.”
In 21 games this season, Pinard has 19 points, including an impressive total of 15 goals. He obviously leads his team in that department.
The Reds on the other hand lead the overall standings. MacDougall’s team has already secured a playoff spot with a 17-3-1-1 record so far this season.
Off the ice, Simon Pinard said he enjoys life in Fredericton, a quiet city filled mostly with students and government workers.
“It’s not a big city, but I really like it. When the weather is nice in the summer, there are lots of places to go. There are plenty of outdoor activities,” notes the Reds’ No. 47. “It’s also nice to see so many people support their hockey team. We usually have great crowds at our games. You can see that the team is important to them.”
Simon Pinard says the QMJHL scholarship program has made his job a lot easier since he arrived at university.
“It’s something that all the players appreciate. University is pretty expensive and so is living in an apartment.”
While he’s enjoying his new surroundings, Pinard admits he’s not ruling out the possibility of signing a professional contract one day, if he ever gets the chance.
“For sure I want to keep pushing. I’ve always dreamed of playing professional hockey. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll definitely jump at it!”