What do Jeff White and Phil Collins Have in Common?


Jeff White is semi – retired and spending much of his time at his cottage in the Eastern townships with his wife Marilyn.Phil Collins is semi-retired and the ex-drummer from the rock group Genesis. He was also a solo music star and actor. Collins had a string of hits during the 1980’s – most notably ; In the Air Tonight.

What do this unlikely duo have in common?

The phrase ‘ Against All Odds ‘.

In 1984 , Collins was approached to pen a song for a movie that was titled; Against All Odds. Arguably the most popular solo artist at that time – Mr. Collins wrote that song which went on to win song of the year at the ensuing Grammy Awards in 1985.

Against All Odds ( take a look at me now) was one of the biggest hits for Collins and he probably had no idea that it could have been the theme song for  Mathieu Darche of the Montreal Canadiens. A hockey player that succeeded ‘against all odds’.

Where Does Jeff White Fit In?

Jeff coached both Mathieu Darche and his older brother J. P in St. Laurent although not in the same season or league. J. P was a defence man for White’s team in Junior BB  while Mathieu played center and captained the coach’s Bantam BB team – Les Challengers de St. Laurent. I recently sat down with Jeff and we discussed what type of player Mathieu was and whether or not the coach was surprised to see Mathieu suit up for the Montreal Canadiens.

” Mathieu was more skilled while his brother was like a bull in a china shop.” Says coach White. ” Both players were great team players and were the type of guys who would never rock the boat. If you asked them to do anything , their answer would be yes coach , sure coach – whatever you say coach !”

The 6′ 1 ” Mathieu was the leading scorer on White’s team and averaged two points a game. All of his teammates looked up to him and coach Jeff attributes his former players’ attitudes on their upbringing.

” Their father was a doctor as was his father before . The boys were raised in a very positive environment and that seasoning shone through in their personalities and their performance on the ice.” White continues. “They both gave 100 percent during a game and it was as if each shift was their final one…!”

White coached Mathieu for just one season although it could have been two. Instead , the Habs number fifty – two took a year off to ski and when he returned , a special friendship blocked the ( now) forty – eight year old White from coaching him again.

” His Dad offered him the choice to ski or play hockey .When Mathieu continued playing the game –  I was no longer coaching at the level he chose to play. It was nice to see him around again – without a broken leg ! ” Laughs White.

“I would have been his coach in AA yet Mathieu chose to play a lower level so he could be on the same team as his best friend and goaltender Jean Francois Crevier. ” According to White – Crevier and Darche continue to be friends to this day.

Two Bros – Two Careers

J. P. Darche was also a football player and he chose to go that route. The elder Darche played five seasons at McGill University in Montreal before entering the CFL in 1999 with the Toronto Argonauts . He then ventured South of the border into the NFL paying with with the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs. J. P. was a long snapper and retired from professional sports in 2009 after missing most of the 2008 season with an injury.

Mathieu also played five seasons with McGill , on the ice rather than the football field. Following the Redmen hockey team , Mathieu commenced his professional career with the Columbus Blue Jackets before joining the Nashville Predators , San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning . He landed ‘ home ‘ in Montreal and has skated for the Canadiens’ organization since the 2009 – 10 season. There were many pit stops along the way with various teams in the AHL and Mathieu played little if at all in the NHL. Since joining the Blue Jackets during the 2001 season, Darche played in only 26 NHl games until 2007. Through it all – Matheu never gave up.

His first chance to play came with the Lightning during the 2007 – 08 campaign. Darche , an undrafted player , skated in 73 games that year – netting 22 points and proving to many that he belonged in the NHL.

” Mathieu always knew the game well and had a nose for the net .” Adds coach White. ” His problem when I coached him and what continued to be his problem as he progressed was his skating ability. Mathieu really had to work hard at that aspect of his game and given his recent success – it appears as if all his hard work has finally paid off. Playing for the Canadiens is a dream for him . Most players would have given up by now yet if you know Mathieu – quitting is not part of his vocabulary.”

In 137 games in a Montreal uniform , Darche has scored nineteen goals and added twenty three assists.  He also possesses an admirable  plus / minus rating of + 7. Last season, Darche missed twenty games during the Canadiens’ most important stretch as they vied for a playoff birth.

” Mathieu was sorely missed during that part of the season. Not for his goals or points but his presence in the room and his responsible play on the ice. Along with Jeff Halpern – the pair did not allow too many goals”. Says White.

Has Mr. White contacted his former player since he has hit the ‘ big time’?

” I’ve thought about it … but I don’t think he has a lot of time right now. When his career is over , I will definitely give him a call …”.

A typical response from a good coach.

Whatever happened to J. P ?

” J. P. is studying to be a doctor at the University of Kansas… I have a few pains in my lower back. I may call him up .” Says the kindly old coach.

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As usual – Habs Eye on the Prize , the Hockey Writers and Knuckles  will help you out !

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