New career: Darche puts McGill degree to good use with Delmar International

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Mathieu Darche photographed at Delmar International Inc. headquarters in Lachine.
John Mahoney, Gazette

Former Canadiens forward Mathieu Darche earned a degree in international business 13 years ago at McGill University. The popular, bilingual Darche is now putting that degree to good use, hired to the new post of director of business development and public relations for Delmar International Inc., the global freight-forwarding and customs brokerage giant.

DAVE STUBBS
The Gazette

It took him 13 years, but former Canadiens forward Mathieu Darche is finally putting his McGill University international business degree to great use.

For the past three weeks, Darche has been settling in as director of business development and public relations for Lachine-headquartered Delmar International Inc., a global giant in freight forwarding and customs brokerage.

His appointment to the newly created position will be announced on Tuesday via Delmar press release.

“They’ve offered me a great job that’s right up my alley, something that fits my personality and skills,” Darche said. “I’ve never worked a regular job and I didn’t know what to expect but they’ve treated me great.

“If Delmar treats their customers the way they’ve treated me, I’m not surprised that they’re successful.”

Darche, 36, retired from the NHL last February, having played 250 NHL games for Columbus, Nashville, San Jose, Tampa Bay and, finally, the Canadiens.

He’d hoped to catch on as a free agent following last season’s lockout but when that possibility withered, he hung up his skates on Feb. 19 with a few words on his Twitter account: “Time to make it official! Moving on to second career.”

Darche didn’t rule out a career in hockey management. He was an impressive, important voice on NHLPA head Don Fehr’s negotiating team during CBA talks but in hockey found neither the right fit nor the challenge he sought.

And then, as a guest at last April’s annual Cummings Jewish Centre sports celebrity benefit breakfast, he met Mike Wagen, senior vice-president and chief operating officer of family-owned, privately held Delmar.

A pleasant talk led the men to a lunch. Another with Delmar founder and chairman Harrison Cutler, CEO Robert Cutler and a few company executives and several more meetings led to an offer Darche was happy to accept.

He always figured he’d wind up in business, having earned his degree in 2000 while playing for the McGill Redmen.

“There was a little 13-year sidetrack, which I loved,” Darche said, laughing, of his NHL and minor-pro career. “But I almost feel that what I’m doing now is what I studied for.”

The fluently bilingual, community-minded native of St. Laurent impressed Delmar from their first contact.

“Mathieu represents the ideal person to assume this brand new role,” said Wagen, whom Darche calls “a great mentor.”

“(Darche) is a really wonderful role model, having made sure to get a good education before pursuing his career as a professional athlete. … It is extraordinary how many of our customers are anxious and excited to meet him and how well he has got on with our associates.”

Darche won’t be far from hockey; he will continue as a studio hockey analyst for RDS and expects to be a regular visitor to the Bell Centre, where Delmar, sponsor of TSN Radio 690’s Canadiens post-game show, has a loge for business entertainment.

“This is a relationship-based business,” Darche said, Delmar a leader in a service, non-asset based industry. “Many companies can do the same thing, it’s the service you bring and the ability to maintain those relationships that’s important.

“If your rates are competitive, people will go with who they like.”

Aggressively working the lucrative, potential-rich Quebec market, Darche views his new career not unlike a hockey team – he can win contracts, which in turn must be serviced by the accounts team, but the accounts team can’t do much if he doesn’t bring them work.

“Being an ex Hab doesn’t hurt me when I go to meet people,” he said. “Instead of having to push business over dinner, people might come to talk to me because of hockey.

“But I realize that much as that helps me now, in 15 or 10 or even five years, people might still know I’m an ex Hab but it won’t carry as much as it does now.

“I’ll use this now to help me make my reputation. It’s a learning curve and I have to do the work. People won’t come to us just because I played for the Habs. I’ve got to bring substance. I sell Delmar, not me. …

“Being an ex Hab is an asset but I’ve got to show people that I know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot to learn and I’ve been on a steep learning curve. From my first day here I’ve been part of all the major meetings about accounts we’re bidding for, been in on a few meetings with companies, some of them trying to make a pitch for business, others as a courtesy.

“I talked to some people in hockey this summer during this (Delmar) process but nothing came up that I really wanted to do.”

Darche is equally delighted that the work didn’t require an uprooting of his young family. His wife, Stéphanie, who spent the past year working on her Master’s thesis in international business, begins a new job on Wednesday with Rio Tinto.

And he’ll have the time to help coach the hockey teams of their sons Samuel, 10, and Benjamin, 8.

“Even if I’d made millions and millions in the NHL, if something like Delmar came up now I’d probably have taken it,” Darche said. “It’s right up what I studied and what I thought I would do. I want to be challenged professionally and intellectually, and this is a nice challenge.”

That’s not to say that Darche doesn’t already miss hockey. This is the first year in 14 seasons that he’s not in the mindset of a professional preparing for training camp, skating with the boys, having spent the summer working out to arrive at camp within a few hard practices of game shape.

Canadiens defenceman Francis Bouillon lives just two houses over in Candiac; their sons are not only close friends, they were linemates in minor hockey last season, Samuel Darche centering Bouillon’s twins. Good buddy Travis Moen is a few blocks away.

“I used to work out in the summer and see Frankie Boo and Steve Bégin, so it was weird not training with them,” Darche said when we spoke late last week. “My kids have kept me so busy and now I’ve got this job but it feels weird a bit. …

“My new schedule gives me some flexibility, so even when the bridge gets busier after Labour Day, I’ll be able to schedule meetings and lunches around traffic.”

Darche laughed.

“And in my new job, I report only to my bosses. I’m not graded the next morning in the newspapers, or by 21,273 at the Bell Centre and by those watching TV.

“Travis just came back (last week from his off-season Saskatchewan home). I had the keys to his house, so I went over to drop them off. Guys are starting to come back into town. I talked to Carey (Price) the day after his wedding, it was, ‘See you soon.’ I talk to P.K. (Subban) a lot during the summer.

“It will be tough when camp starts and you’re out of it, but it will be easier than last year when all I was doing was RDS. That kept me too involved with the Habs and it kind of reopened the wound,” Darche said, having ultimately turned down the Canadiens’ final offer in June 2012 of a two-way contract.

“I still have a lot of friends – Frankie, Travis, Josh (Gorges), Carey, P.K., Brian (Gionta), they’re still my buddies and I wish them well. I’ll still be watching.”

Darche speaks highly of incoming Canadiens heavyweight George Parros.

“George is one of the most intelligent hockey players I’ve ever met,” he said of the Princeton economics major. “During the CBA talks he understood everything. We didn’t always agree but we always respected each other’s opinion. We understood the concepts even if we didn’t always have the same opinion. He’s a real, real smart guy.”

What Darche says he’ll miss most about hockey “is playing.”

“The first game I went to last season, I stood up for the anthem in the press box and got goosebumps. I always said, when (P.A. announcer) Michel Lacroix says, ‘Accueillons nos Canadiens!’, you get goosebumps. After three years in Montreal, I still had them.

“I was standing, thinking, ‘I still want to play, I should try again next year,’ but I couldn’t put my life and my family’s lives on hold just so I could try one more year. It was time to move on. But you miss playing, competing. I didn’t win a Stanley Cup and I wish I could have had one.

Darche recently appeared on behalf of the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, a role he took great pride in while with the club, and is eager to do foundation work with Delmar, which is generously active in the community.

For now, every day a new challenge, there’s the matter of getting back into game shape, even if his game now is played in boardrooms and an orderly office – “I hate clutter!” – in Lachine.

On a family trip to Washington recently, Darche visited with friend and former teammate Jeff Halpern. And with that visit came a drop-in to Astro Doughnuts, the decadent D.C. shop co-owned by Halpern.

“You’ve got to have the crème brûlée!” Darche said, almost salivating at the memory. “The day we were there, they launched a doughnut sandwich – doughnut top and bottom with ice cream in the middle.

“But I’ve got to start being careful with what I eat. When I retired, I let go, and I when I started here, I was uncomfortable in my suits.”

To that end, Darche is lacing up running shoes instead of skates, planning to do a half-marathon in Montreal this month. He’s entered with – sort of – his wife, Stéphanie, a distance-running veteran.

“I can’t have her beat me,” he said, laughing, saying he’s set a goal of one hour, 45 minutes for the 21-kilometre (13-mile) effort.

So is the plan, I asked Darche, for the couple to run together, symbolic of writing a new family chapter, husband and wife simultaneously setting sail into new careers?

“My plan is to run ahead of her,” he said, laughing again. “My plan is for her to watch me run.”

• Follow Mathieu Darche on Twitter: @matdarche52

dstubbs@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: @Dave_Stubbs

Below: Mathieu Darche at work at his orderly desk at Delmar headquarters in Lachine.
John Mahoney, Gazette

darche-desk

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  2. frontenac1 says:

    Murray will have Diaz”s back. Viva Diaz!

  3. SSFN says:

    MB and MT will make all the necessary moves to have a competitive team and that’s all we can ask for this year. we’re not going to be a stanley cup team for awhile so why not have a competitive team so we as fans can get to enjoy watching the Habs.
    I think we’ll do alright and with the toughness MB brought in we shouldn’t have to watch our team get beat around like kids in a schoolyard like we witnessed a few times last year.

    All I’m hoping for is the Habs to play good Hockey each game out and let the chips fall where they may.

    • Bill H says:

      Well, yes, I am excited about the coming season. But not for any of the reasons mentioned in that article. I think the guy must have been very stoned when he wrote that.

  4. HabFab says:

    Renaud Lavoie @LavoieRenaud

    Guillaume Latendresse will be at Coyotes training camp on a try out.

  5. John Q Public says:

    The question is : What is a
    Yoni
    ?

  6. B says:

    Darche played 3 seasons with Montreal.

    In 09/10, his first season with Montreal, Darche was 10th among Habs forwards with 21:07 PP TOI. He played 45 seconds in 11 playoff games that season.

    In 11/12, his last season with Montreal, Darche was 11th among Habs forwards with 30:16 PP TOI. The Habs missed the playoffs that season.

    In 10/11, Darche was 8th among Habs forwards with 79:47 PP TOI, he was also 8th among Habs forwards with 7 PP pts. During the playoffs that season he was 6th among Habs forwards in PP TOI and tied for 4th in PP pts. I don’t see anything shocking or untoward about those numbers. He actually was effective in his limited PP TOI.

    During that that same 10/11 season, Erik Cole had 8 PP pts with 221:36 PP TOI for Carolina. Not very good production for that large amount of PP TOI. When Cole started the next season in Montreal, he was off to his usual slow start and not being productive. The coach then sent Cole a wake up call by giving Darche more PP time than Cole in some of those early games where Cole was not producing. The message worked and Cole turned it around picking up his game and finally starting to produce. Cole went on to lead the Habs forwards in PP TOI and PP goals that season (3rd in pts). I never understood the overblown kerfuffle and indignation over that successful coaching ploy.

    Despite never really playing significant PP time (as Ronn pointed out earlier) and actually being decently effective with the limited PP TOI he did get, the myth of Darche’s excessive and undeserved PP time for Montreal lives on to this day.

    –Go Habs Go!–

  7. rhino514 says:

    Murray effectively closes the door on tinordi, makes the latter an injury call-up. There was an interesting statistical analysis of Murray on EOTP the other day, basically any which way you measure it he was ranked close to the bottom of defencemen who played a regular shift.
    The only excuse i can see for the habs obtaining him is that he can be a physical deterrent, nastier than Tinordi, and isn´t too terrible as a player, yet, though his skills are diminishing fast. As a Dman he will be on the ice far more than Parros, who can´t really play and is almost useless.
    It´s just kind of sad when we have to hire these types og guys because of our apparent lack of size, and it ends up slowing the prospects of young guys who can play.
    If Tinordi has a decent camp I really believe he deserved to be in the top six.
    It´s great to pick up a guy like Prust who can play and hit, but does having guys like Parros and Murray simply to protect other players really work as a solution? I question this.
    Furthermore, it seems Bergevin is spending a heck of alot of money for depth; when Emelin comes back, the team could have Murray, Bouillon, and Drewiske not playing. That´s over 3.5 million (4.5 if you count Parros) which is riding the pine.
    Couldn´t the team have gone and gotten one really good and tough player with that kind of cap space?

    • Hstands4Hockey says:

      Tinordi is coming, soon, but no need to force him into a situation where the team needs him to excel. He will get the opportunity to prove it this year. Glad to see him starting in Hamilton (partially because I’m from Hamilton) and I expect he’ll earn a spot with the team this year.

      ——————————————————————–
      Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion!
      @Hstands4Hockey

      • johnnylarue says:

        Yup. Not worried about Tinordi one bit.

        And I doubt Bergevin would have signed Drewiske had he known he’d be getting Murray on the cheap. I’m not a Drewiske fan. But I tend to agree with those who say you can’t have too much depth. Injuries WILL happen.

    • krob1000 says:

      If the team had this toughenss and depth last year they would have likely beaten Ottawa. THe fact the kids are not needed or being forced is a testament to the great job MB has done….even better is the fact he surrenedered no assets for Murray, Parros or Brere.
      THe Habs have plenty of guys able to fill in and are ina great situation…..even though there appears to be logjams I would love to see him sign B Morrow …..it would mean a heck of a year in Hamiltona nd should mean good things for the big club as well.

    • Kooch7800 says:

      There is no need to rush Tinordi until he is ready. Due to his size and wanting to play a physical game it may be better to keep him in the minors to learn the pro game a bit more and play big minutes. He will get to play in the NHL this year when there is injuries. I can’t see Diaz making it a full season without getting banged up again.

      “Keep your stick on the Ice”


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