Michel Tavernier, former player turned president of the Morzine Avoriaz Hockey Club (HCMA) recently sat down for a partners’ interview in the pages of the Mag des Pingouins. Let’s take a look at this portrait of the sportsman!
A partner of the HCMA for 30 years, Intersport has had many adventures with ‘Les Pingouins’. The highs, the lows, the Magnus League finale… whatever the result, the Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets Intersport shops have always supported the club. It has to be said that ice hockey is firmly established in the Tavernier family, especially with their two leaders, Benoit and Michel. From simple practice of the game, through volunteering, right up to professional careers, the family has always been very involved in the development of hockey in Morzine. Michel Tavernier, who has played at a professional level, for the French team, and even taken on the role of Club President, offers us the pleasure of answering a few of our questions.
Michel, how would you summarise Intersport in just a few words?
Intersport France is a cooperative company, bringing together retailers and store owners.
As a ski rental specialist, how have you developed your range of unique services?
For ski rentals, we have several shops at three stations. We have three shops in Morzine, three in Avoriaz and two in Les Gets. We can deliver skis directly to chalets or transport skiers by bus from the chalet to our shops with our shuttle bus. We also offer a ski returns service at the foot of the slopes (Morzine and Les Gets). Skiers can also change equipment between the different stations throughout their stay.
The ties between HCMA and Intersport are quite strong, can you tell us about the history of this partnership?
It’s true, we have a historical link with the HCMA! Our slogan is “Sport, the most beautiful meeting”, and that’s why we support this club, because it demonstrates strong values through the involvement of volunteers, like no other club. Team sport is like a business: we work together and nothing can be done without discussion and without the support of everyone.
Beyond hockey, do you support any other clubs/projects in the valley?
Skiing, figure skating, football, judo, individual athletes from the valley and projects like the 4L Trophy, for example.
You had a great career as a player, can you tell us about it?
As a player? Some would say that I was “grumpy”, but I’d say that “I don’t like to lose” – there’s a difference! (laughs) I started in 1978 at the new indoor ice rink in Morzine, I was 12 years old at the time. Quite an old age to start hockey, but I was lucky enough to be able to progress very quickly and to play with the Morzine seniors at age 16, as they took part in the French Championship for the first time, with the arrival of David Archambault. Then I went to the Saint-Gervais club (Fayet High School) to develop in both the juniors and seniors teams, with whom I won Champion of France three times. Then, I managed to get spotted and transferred to the Grenoble club: that’s when I first experienced the joy of wearing the French Senior Team jersey! The following season, the Français Volants de Paris took me on: in 1987/1988 we played all our matches in “Le Grand Bercy” (now the Accor Arena). It was amazing to play in France, in front 12,000 spectators! After returning from a season in Haute-Savoie with the Mont-Blanc team, I was lucky enough to be approached by the Reims club, who had just joined the Magnus League. So I played for Reims for three seasons from 1989 to 1992. I was also able to play a few matches and tournaments with the French Team under the management of Kjell Larsson, the Swede who brought a great deal of discipline to France. I loved playing alongside players like Vladimir Kovin, Sergeï Tukmachev or Sergeï Gorbushin: it was the end of the Eastern bloc and it was truly a life lesson to see what they had experienced. Beside them, we looked like “spoilt children”. Of course, I’m not forgetting all the French players I played with and with whom I am still friends today. Other than that, I’ve always loved scoring goals and bringing victory to my team. Hockey is a big part of my life. I even played a match on the day of my brother’s wedding! I sat down at the table during the reception and nobody saw anything! (laughs) Then in 1993, it was back to Morzine – to play, but above all to take over and develop the Intersport family business with my brother Benoit.
Emil, Sami… In the Tavernier house, hockey must be a family story?
My boys Sami and Emil play hockey, my father played in his time, my big brother Benoit and my nephews Thibault and Nicolas too, it really is a family affair! Right now, we’re really into biathlon in my house, with Antonin and Gilonne Guigonnat (my children’s cousins): we watch it on tv every weekend, the French team is huge! My son Sami currently plays at Merrimack College, near Boston in the United States, in the NCAA: his “goal” is to play at even higher levels. We’ll see! Emil plays with the HC74 U17 AND U20, he’s growing and progressing well, we’re sure to see more from him! What’s funny for me is having the “big one”, who has played for the Finnish national junior team (second place in the world, my wife Minna is Finnish) and the “little one” who plays for the French Junior team. Not to forget my daughter Elina: she teaches skiing now, after practising with the Morzine ski club! But if I had one piece of advice to give you, it would be “above all, don’t wish for your children to be who you wanted to be!”
From player to President, you’ve gone through several positions in the club. How do you see the future development of HCMA?
I took on the presidency by default because there were no candidates! I went to the club’s general meeting one night, it was 1996 and I was still a player… By the time I left the meeting, I was Club President! A lot of work has been put in by everyone to make this club what it is today. I won’t name names because they know who they are, but I really want to say hats off to them, because I’m proud of the HCMA and “Les Pingouins”: it truly is an incredible club!
It’s taken a lot of work to make this club what it is today!
What are Intersport’s plans for the future in the valley?
That’s a very complicated question at the moment, because trade is changing very quickly – the internet is really shaking up business! We employ 50 people in winter (two hockey teams). The world is changing very quickly, society and our means of consumption are changing… We’re doing everything we can to adapt, it’s going very fast and we just have to keep our heads up! And the future? If you know, tell me! In the meantime, be strong!