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Adjusting on the fly with Mathieu Provencher

The fans packing the Harold Alfold Forum ice arena watch as a member of the UNE men’s hockey team carries the puck across the center line. A split-second later, the defense converges, resulting in a chip into the corner, rather than a breakaway drive to the net.

To the rooters in the blue bleachers, players on the ice, and players on the UNE bench, there’s little more to do than acknowledge the defense made a nice play.

High above the rink though, Mathieu Provencher ’15 sees that if the player had held the puck an instant longer, he could have passed it to a surging winger with a clear path to the goal. Provencher sees an opportunity that wasn’t realized but next time will be—at least if he has anything to say about it.

“Hockey is fast and a lot of things happen during the course of a game,” explains the Sport and Recreation Management major. “You can’t see it all when you’re down on the ice.”

Provencher speaks from experience. After spending his freshman and sophomore years playing for the Nor’easters, he assumed a new role as team video and statistics coordinator in 2014. Whether the Nor’easters are home or away, he watches from the press box or top row of bleachers. Using Gamebreaker video editing software, he isolates sequences of game action that head coach Brad Holt shows to the players. This benefits the team between games, and also between periods within games.

“Sometimes players think they only have one option,” Provencher explains. “You need to slow it down so they have a better understanding. Then, the next time it happens, they can adjust.”

Provencher’s story demonstrates his personal understanding of just how adjusting to changing situations can pay off. His story also illustrates a lifelong devotion to hockey. It’s no wonder the players and coaches listen when he talks.  

Growing up in the French-Canadian city of Victoriaville, Quebec, Provencher played hockey incessantly under the tutelage of his father Jean, who is the general manager of a Canadian Junior Hockey League team. To further his education and develop his hockey skills, Provencher left home at age 15 to attend a boarding school in Quebec City. A year later, he left Canada to attend a prep school in Kents Hill, Maine, where he took courses in English—a language no other member of his family speaks. Along the way, he adjusted.     

But the biggest challenge of all came at the start of Provencher’s junior year at UNE. During hockey training camp, he faced the reality that the UNE program was rapidly improving, relegating him to little more than a role player. He decided that rather than playing sparsely, he’d position himself for a career in coaching or sport management. In the fall of 2014, he worked with UNE business professor Rick LaRue to start the UNE Sport Management Club. He also remained involved with the game he loves.     

“From five years old to 21, that’s all I did: play hockey, watch hockey, study hockey,” Provencher says. “It’s been such a part of my life, I couldn’t just say, ‘I’m done with hockey.’ Video is so important nowadays, and being able to manage that and have the confidence and trust of the coaches...I feel like I can still make an impact.”

On the heels of his work with the men’s hockey program, Provencher is now helping other UNE teams—including women’s hockey, soccer and volleyball—make fuller use of video.

With his major in Sport and Recreation Management, a minor in Business, and the practical skills he’s gaining, Provencher feels poised to capitalize on whatever professional opportunities may await him.       

“I’m getting all this experience while I’m still in college,” he says. “I feel like I’ll have a lot of tools when I graduate and I still have one more year.”

Provencher thinks he’ll enter the workforce initially, rather than pursuing graduate school, but says anything is possible. “I like to plan ahead so I have a line to guide me,” he explains, “but if there’s another opportunity, I always consider it.”    

That attitude has served Provencher well so far, making it one thing in his life that needs no adjusting.