talks to Peter Collins - feb 2000
MOST players slide gracefully on to the ice when John Hammond announces their name but not Pierre Allard. The pugnacious 27-year-old from Laval, Montreal, explodes out of the smoke and fires across the ice like an exocet. But why? "Away from hockey I'm a very easy going, quiet kind of guy and I keep all my frustrations and anger bottled up for when I play. So when I go out for a game I like to burst onto the ice, it's my way of telling myself I'm here to do a job - 'Pierre' the nice guy is back at home, Pierre the hockey player is here. Ask anyone who has played with me, I've done it since I was a kid and if I don't go out that way I don't feel good. Ideally I'd like to be first on the ice but the match night presentation doesn't allow that," said the man known to his teamates simply as 'Frenchie'. And it wasn't until he joined the Storm last season that he got a nickname, the closest he'd had to one previously was in France where he was called 'Pierreau.' The in-your-face winger was spotted by Kurt Kleinendorst towards the end of the 1997-98 playing in the French play-off semis for Grenoble against Rouen. He liked what he saw and contacted Pierre's agent. Also targeted by Newcastle, he'd originally decided to stay another season with Grenoble but when the club started to experience money problems he jumped at the chance of coming to Manchester. Last season he of course added the Superleague championship to the French title he'd won with Grenoble the previous season, emerging Storm's top powerplay goal scorer with seven - just one behind Nottingham's Greg Hadden who led the league overall in PPs. He also netted the club's fastest goal of the season, scoring the opener in the 6-0 defeat of Newcastle after just 17 seconds, and was one of only four ever-presents in the league.
This season he is again showing that ironman streak, being one of just five who have stayed the pace so far. Last season he missed just three play-off games, but that was due to the fact he had to return home early because his mother was dying. The loss of a parent is always a terrible thing to bear, but Pierre has found a way to help him deal with it and help others also. "When my mom died I wanted to do something posiitve so I decided to sell off my French 'white' shirt to raise money for charity. I'd already done the same thing in France where I used my 'blue' shirt to raise a money for a special kids cancer hospital. It's helped me get over her death, which was pretty harrowing, because I spent the last week at the hospital by her side and watched here die. But life goes on and this is just my way of trying to get a piece of life out of her death and it helped me fight the pain."
After starting his hockey career playing for home town club Laval, with whom he won the Quebec peewee tournament three years in a row (while at the same time watching NHL legend Mario Lemieux deveop in the club's junior team), he went on to the QMJHL with Sainte Hyacinthe, Shawinigan and Chicoutimi. He was then invited to a Montreal Canadiens training camp and even played in a pre-season exhibition game, but was not taken on. Although he didn't make it in the NHL he was offered a contract to play in the ECHL but turned it down. "My wife Antoinette (they'd met at college when he was 17 and by the time he was 20 they were married) was pregnant with our daughter Elisabeth (son David came along a couple of years later) and I'd heard all these stories about two-week road trips. I didn't want to do that because I wanted to be with her. So I had the choice of finding a 9-5 job or another hockey team somewhere else, so I contacted every team in France and when the chance to move there came about we took it and we've never regretted it."
While playing two seasons with Font-Romeu he had to augment his hockey money by fitting double glazing and taking sick children skiing. Then after a season with Angers he signed for Grenoble, winning the French title with them in his second year. "Playing in Europe has allowed me to watch my family grow up and representing France I've still played against the best players in the world like Mats Sundin, particularly at the Nagano Olympics," he explained. So far this season he's played a major part in securing the B&H Cup, scoring the first of Storm's three regulation time goals, and it was one winners' medal that meant a lot to him. "Even in the warm-up before we could feel the pressure, we knew it was a special game, and I never thought it was so good to win a game as I did after we won that one.
Last year like all the guys I had to watch it on the TV having been knocked out in the semis. This year we fought through and made it to the final where everything was against us, what with injuries and everyone was saying London would win. We were down 2-0 but anything can happen in a one-off game and we were strong mentally and that first goal changed the whole momentum of the game. from that point we showed we had the determination and character to win and we proved a lot of people wrong." Now he insists the team are focused on the remaining games and the job of retaining the Superleague title. "We struggled a bit after our good start but I think we've learned a few lessons and I feel we're improving and we've still got everything to play for. We've got eight games left including tonight's and six of them are at home. If we can win them and pick up some points from our two road games who knows? Last year we never had any problems, we cruised right through, this year we've been hit by injuries and players moving and we've not had much luck, but we're still fighting to keep what is ours. A good run now would also be good for the play-offs. Last year just like in the B&H we choked a bit in the big one-off games, but like I said winning the B&H we feel we've proved to outselves that we have the toughness and character to win them."
However, next weekend while Superleague takes a rest he will be trying to get the better of linemates Jeff Johnstone and Mike Harding who will be playing for Great Britain against Romania, Poland and Allard's France, to decide who takes the one spot up for grabs in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 'I really enjoy playing on the same line as Jeff and Mike. I'm a hard worker, I like going into the corners and digging the puck out and getting it out to them and we've gelled pretty quickly since we were put together. My role hasn't changed from last season when I was doing the same job alongside Kelly Askew and Jeff Tomlinson. "The game between France and Great Britain is probably going to be the decider, so it will even more special playing against them. I like to play the same kind of game for the national team as I do for the Storm and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm very proud to be playing for France again and for that one game I'll be working against them instead of with them, which should be interesting!"