Marc-André Dorion played his Major Junior Hockey in the QMJHL, College Hockey at McGill University, and is currently playing pro Hockey in Austria’s EBEL League for EHC Linz. We sat down with him to shed light on his journey and his take on the game.
Was it an easy choice to switch from Baie-Comeau to McGill, or did you have second thoughts about trying to play pro right away?
My choice was already made when coach Martin Raymond approached me after my 19-year-old season in the QMJHL. He said they liked me as a player and I could get a very good education at McGill. So after my 20 year old season in the Q, the decision was quite easy as education had always been very important to my family and me. Moreover, I had never been drafted and it was still pretty rare for an over age player to get a contract in the AHL even if the player had a very good season (which was my case after being voted on the 1st All-Star team in the Q.
How was the transition to having rigorous academic responsibilities at McGill after several years of junior hockey? What did you study? What did you enjoy about those four years of your life?
So even though the choice was pretty easy, the transition was not at all! After one week of school in mechanical engineering at McGill, I went on to my first rookie camp with the Dallas Stars. It was a very nice opportunity for me and I tried to make the most of it. I thought things went pretty well but the management told me to keep working on my game and to go back to school. Coming back on the 3rd week of school, I already had some assignments due. I remember coming out of a mathematics class and thinking mechanical engineering might not have been the best choice in the end! I called my parents and my coach and told them I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. I looked at different scenarios, including going in the NAHL (the senior league in Quebec where there used to be plenty of fights). No need to say that my parents and my coach didn’t support this idea! After talking to a few people and trying to find the best option for me, I decided to transfer from engineering to Physical Education. There were so many changes occurring at the same time including learning and studying in English for the first time in my life. It was frightening! Looking back at it now, I sometimes wish I would have pursued in engineering or studied finances instead of phys ed, but at that time, I had no money! So finance was not as interesting back then as it is for me now!
Looking back at all of this, I can easily say that my 4 years at McGill have been the best hockey years of my life. I made so many friends there, graduated from one of the best schools in Canada, learned English and became almost perfectly bilingual and most importantly, enjoyed every minute I spent on campus, in school and at the rink. On top of that, we won the first ever National Championship for Men’s hockey at McGill in 2012, That was definitely our goal as a group and we had such a good group of players and people that came in together in 2008 that we knew we had to have only one goal, win the National Championship.
What is your pre-game routine (meal, nap, warm-up)? Are you loose or serious before a game?
I don’t have much of a routine. Like most players, I’ll try to take a nap, about an hour or so, and I usually eat pasta. Other than that, I don’t want to have to worry about having a routine or some sort of ritual. Obviously, if I play a good game, I’ll try to copy or remember what I did before the match, but most of the time, it doesn’t really change anything! I am very loose before a game. I think that reflects the type of player that I am on the ice, calm and poised. On the other hand, I take things very seriously and I can let the referees know that I don’t agree with their calls or tell my teammates that they are not working hard enough.
If points didn’t exist, what would you look at to determine a player’s worth?
Unfortunately, I think points are very overvalued, especially here in Europe. There are not many people analysing the game like they do in North America. For example, teams look at the stats in order to know if the player could play in a better league or not. Also, managers and owners base the value of a player more often than not on the amount of points he scored the previous season. I think it is unfortunate because blocking shots, being in the right position and being effective on the ice both offensively and defensively is as important as scoring goals.
What do you think is the most effective style of play in today’s game?
Like Andy Miele said, I think the game focuses a lot on speed nowadays. The teams with the most success all have great speed and a good goalie. So personally being aggressive on the forecheck, limiting time and space to the opponent is what works best.
What do you take pride in and how do you judge whether you’ve had a good game or not?
To me, playing a good and sound game is making a good first pass, playing good defensively and spending as little time in my zone as possible. Points are always nice but sometimes I can think I played very good and finish the game with no points at all. On the other hand, I can think I played a poor game because I missed most of my breakouts and didn’t play well in my own zone even if I finished the game with 2 points. I am my biggest critic and playing with consistency, making a good first pass and being good defensively is usually what determines if I played well or not.
If you could make one rule change to the game of hockey, what would it be?
Here in Austria, we can dress 22 players. So we sometimes dress 7 or 8 defensemen. I think this is too much and it is a waste of time for the 7th or 8th D and also a waste of money for the team. So I would make sure only 20 players are dressed for a game, it is more than enough!
If you had to pick three off-ice drills for a talented 15 year-old wanting to improve, what would they be?
I can’t pick 3 specific drills, but players have to realize that the game is based on speed. So working on their acceleration, quickness, explosion, balance and core is the most important to me. Also, I would suggest to play a different sport if possible in the summer. Whether it is soccer, tennis, golf, volleyball, baseball, playing another sport can help hockey players a lot. We hear about it all the time, specialization at an early age isn’t the best idea.
Why do you love the game? Are there perhaps things that annoy you about the current system?
I like the game because it is fast-paced, you always have to be aware of what is going on around you and there is nothing more exciting than being on the ice with your teammates and scoring a goal or winning an important game! The people we meet also make this sport the best sport in the world!
What have been the highlights of playing in Linz and, more specifically, what has the Champions League experience been like?
So far we have always only reached the semi-finals since I have been here. We have such a talented group of players, it has been frustrating to not reach the finals in 4 years. My highlight since I have been here would probably be to feel the support from our fans game in, game out. They cheer for us all the time, whether it is at home or on the road. I have to say that we have the best fans in the league, and maybe in all of Europe!
The Champions League has been alright, but we haven’t done very well in it so it is tough for me to say more about it!
Have you thought about life after hockey? If so, where do you want to go and what do you want to do?
I think about this more and more as the years pass by! I started my MBA online this summer, so I hope I’ll be able to finish it before the end of my career. I do it to open as many options as possible. All I know is that I would like to work in the big world of hockey. I always thought I would be a coach because I like the strategy aspects of the game. I always try to analyze the other team and find where their weaknesses are. If I don’t coach, I could use my phys ed degree to teach hockey in a school. It is not easy to think about this because I still love the game a lot and I don’t want this very nice journey to end!
I can say a lot about him as a hockey player and even more as a friend. He is a great player at both ends of the ice. I believe maybe the most underrated defenseman in our league. He is a great playmaker and sees the ice exceptionally well. As a person he has been a very close friend to me over the last 5 seasons. We are roommates on the road and have had some great times. He is always the first guy to make a fuss about my kids and they love him to death. He would give you his shirt off his back and I know our friendship will continue for life!
Rob Hisey – EHC Linz