Patrice Bernier knew his turn was about to come, but the honor he will receive on Saturday night is no less grandiose.
The former team captain met the media on Thursday, two days before his induction into the CF Montreal Wall of Fame.
It was during halftime of the duel against Orlando City S.C. that Bernier would become the fifth player to have his name appear on this permanent space at Stade Saputo, which is used to honor those who have marked the history of the club. He will join defenders Gabriel Gervais and Nevio Pizzolitto, goalkeeper Greg Sutton and forward Mauro Biello.
“I would like to thank the entire CF Montreal organization for rewarding my portion of my career with the Impact and adding me to this exclusive group. It’s even a more special moment than when I was inducted into the Quebec Soccer and Canadian Soccer Halls of Fame, because I spent the majority of my professional hours here. When Gabriel told me this a month ago, I was surprised, but I thought it was going to happen at some point,” Bernier said.
There’s no shortage of qualifiers when it comes to describing Bernier and what he accomplished during his career as a player, but Gervais, who rubbed shoulders with him in the minor and university ranks, managed to sum up his long-time friend date.
“In 2002, we were teammates with the Impact and Patrice was my roommate. He always had this joy, this love, this enthusiasm and this passion for soccer. Every away game morning, Patrice would open the curtains in the hotel room and no matter if it was sunny or rainy, he would yell “what a great day for a game!” I begged him to close the curtains because I wanted to sleep, but for him it was still a great day to play soccer. That enthusiasm was fascinating,” mentioned Gervais with a smile.
Bernier made his first stint in Montreal, from 2000 to 2002, in the A-League, and then went into exile for 10 years in Europe to gain experience and refine his game.
In the meantime, soccer has evolved in the province and the opportunity to play at home, in a North American professional league, set the stage for Bernier’s return with the Impact in 2012. He carried the team colors in his first season in MLS until he hung up his boots in 2017, after winning several individual and collective honours.
His prowess on the field was accompanied by great leadership and recognition of what the Impact, and now CF Montreal, could mean to the team’s fans. Bernier captained the team from 2014 to 2017, he was involved as an assistant coach with the Academy and the first team before becoming a TV game analyst.
Even today, Bernier is an emblematic figure of soccer in Quebec and he continues to help grow the sport in the province, as he did when he wore the colors of the Impact or the Canadian team.
“When I came back to Montreal, I understood that the responsibility would rest on my shoulders because I was the last player still active who had played at the time. It was difficult at first because I knew I had to do a lot off the pitch. I knew if I didn’t, people wouldn’t talk about it much. I like soccer. The team has a responsibility to grow the sport and it was mine too. And the best way to grow the sport is to perform well,” Bernier observed.
A player’s career is not eternal, but what he has achieved can remain forever rooted in the roots of a team. Having your name on the CF Montreal Wall of Fame is one more step towards recognition that will span generations.
Gervais, who now acts as president and CEO of the team, believes that it is the whole story of Bernier that will inspire young people who will turn their eyes to this section of the Saputo stadium.
“When you meet people and they tell you that you represented them well, that means more than all the trophies. It’s telling yourself that people see themselves in you and that marked me, “added Bernier.
And even today, players recognize themselves in him, like Mathieu Choinière, Samuel Piette or Sean Rea, who currently play for CF Montreal.
Before Thursday’s practice at Center Nutrilait, Choinière and Rea had only good words for Bernier, who coached the two players with the Academy.
“Patrice is Quebec soccer. He is the legend of Quebec and the club, that is what he represents for me, insisted Choinière. He gives everyone confidence. »
“He always gave me advice and he always supported me. He did a lot for the team and we want to do like him. I would like to be as consistent as him during my career,” Rea said.
In his career, Bernier played 224 season games with the Impact, the third highest total in club history, 12 playoff games, 16 games in the Canadian Championship and nine others in the Concacaf Champions League.
In MLS, Bernier had 15 goals and 25 assists during the season. He was named the club’s Most Valuable Player and Humanitarian Player in 2012 and was invited to the MLS All-Star Game in 2013. He also helped the Impact win the Canadian Championship in 2013 and 2014.
Bernier also appeared in 56 games with Canada between 1999 and 2017. He represented the national team in three FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds and four Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments.