Our Alumni | Xavier Bernard inching towards childhood dream
Xavier Bernard has been dreaming of the National Hockey League since he was a youngster.
Today, the former Drummondville Voltigeurs, Charlottetown Islanders, Val-d’Or Foreurs and Sherbrooke Phœnix skater is only one step away from reaching his dream.
In his second year of professional hockey, the 23-year-old is now playing for the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. After a few stints in the ECHL, first with the Atlanta Gladiators and then with the Allen Americans, and a rookie season with the Belleville Senators, the defenseman feels that he’s now settled in at the pro level.
“The adaptation is going really well. I think my style of play was already well adapted to the pro style of play, which helped me in my transition,” says the New Jersey Devils’ fourth round pick in 2018.
Always humble, Xavier Bernard is the first to admit that he still has a lot to learn before landing in the NHL full time however.
“The biggest challenge is always trying to find the little things that will make me better on the ice, and off of it,” he notes.
In Bernard’s everyday life, the adjustments are also going pretty well. Even if the meals he was getting from his billet families are a thing of the past, the blueliner says he is happy to be able to do things on his own.
“Honestly, it’s great because I’m a very independent person and it allows me to complete my studies in a quiet environment, since I live alone. It’s much different than living with roommates like I did in the past, but I like having my own place,” says the Mercier, Quebec native.
“I’ve been taking care of my own meals for a while now. I like to do my grocery shopping and I’ve loved to cook since I was a little kid. It’s important for me to know what’s on my plate. I like to prepare good food for myself and it’s fairly easy for me, because I’m very good at it.”
The defenseman even finds himself enjoying doing his own laundry!
“The machines do all the work, I just have to fold after!” he says with a laugh.
The biggest change, however, was the one on the ice.
The execution speed is much faster than in junior hockey, and the little details are numerous. At this level, Bernard explains, the difference between success and failure is often very small.
But he remains absolutely convinced that he will skate in the NHL one day. And good luck getting him to admit otherwise!
“To reach my goal, I have to keep doing exactly what I’m doing now. That means having a great work ethic, playing within my identity and to keep persevering,” he admits.
“I need to continue to improve my speed and work with my coaches on my strengths and the different facets of my game.”
Xavier Bernard is aware that the road to the big leagues may be long. But for now, he wants to focus on his personal progression and help his team reach the Calder Cup playoffs.
“I definitely consider myself very lucky to make a living playing hockey. Being on the ice every day, and having fun, is definitely what I dreamed of when I was young,” he explains.
“I have one goal in mind, I live in the moment, I have confidence in myself and in what the future holds! It’s a great privilege to play hockey. I’m very grateful to my family and to everyone who has helped me in my career so far.”