Inside the Hinse

Concordia Stingers Star Discusses His Family, Career and Tendency to Think Too Much

Concordia Stingers winger Olivier Hinse (right) stands next to men’s hockey head coach Kevin Figsby. Hinse finished this past 2014-15 season with 18 goals and 31 points in 26 games. Photo Laura Lalonde

Olivier Hinse is the kind of person you’d want to be stranded on a desert island with. “He’s a stand-up guy,” says Kevin Figsby, head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team. “And he’s got that glow.”

Hinse is the team’s most valuable player, top scorer and team captain. He was the first player to be named an assistant captain of the Stingers in his first year.

In 2014, he was nominated by his teammates for the Randy Gregg Award, a top award in Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey, combining academics, athletics and community service.

“He’ll go pro,” Figsby says. “I know it. Everyone knows it.”

Some might call this “pressure”—to be loved by everyone, to be successful, to excel at his degree (which is Child Studies).

But just meeting him, it’s easy to see Hinse’s future is as solid as his handshake. And as he enters the office where Figsby is still gushing about him, both of them eating handfuls of Cadbury Mini Eggs, Hinse is ready for anything. Including this interview.

As Hinse stands in the doorway of Figsby’s office, he looks right at home. He wears a hoodie and a polo shirt and a baseball cap with sunglasses on them. He shakes Figsby’s hand like he missed him.

“Hey Buck,” Figsby laughs, delighted to see Hinse, who is just as delighted to see him.

I had hoped Hinse would be easy to break down. I wanted to see what went on behind all the success and praise. But even I was enamored by his “glow.” That very presence that Figsby promised, it’s real—so real, that Figsby got up from his hospital bed just to meet Hinse for the first time.

“Oh, I’ll tell you about the first time I met Olivier,” Figsby laughs. “It was in April.” He pauses. “A Tuesday.”

He says this dramatically with a twist of irony, kind of laughing at himself, but not really. “I fell off my roof—where I had been doing maintenance—and I dropped 20 feet. I had seven fractures.”

But email still works from inside a hospital, so Figsby arranged to meet Hinse the next day.

Figsby had his wife Debbie “stuff him in the car” and drive him, broken bones and all, to the Burgundy Lion. “I wasn’t going to let McGill get him,” Figsby says. They were scheduled to meet each other at noon. Figsby got there at 11:15.

Olivier grew up in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is the middle child. He has one older sister and one younger brother, both of whom spend their days helping others.

His siblings work with the elderly and the disabled and his father has always volunteered. Hinse wants to work with kids and open a daycare some day. If there is such a thing as a kindness gene, this family has it. But Hinse gives his mother all the credit.

“I love her so much. She gave us everything,” he says.

She had to drop out of school when her father, Olivier’s grandfather, passed away.

The family owned a potato factory in Sherbrooke, where his mother had to take over after her father’s death (she was only 20 years old). He admires her and smiles deeply every time we discuss her. “I think that’s why I work so hard,” he says. “She would die for me.”

Earlier in the interview, Figsby was quick to mention that “five NHL teams came to check Hinse out just last week.” But the star player does admit—although he isn’t very convincing—that he does fail. “I fail a lot, actually,” he says, “but I never fail twice at the same thing.”

Except when that failure is external, and breaks his jaw.

When Hinse played as a defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, (he’s an offensive player by nature), his success was shot down, quite literally, by a puck to the face.

“The first time I broke my jaw, it was my draft year for the NHL. Then I broke it again, two years later. But I always kept the dream [of going pro]. I came back and I went all in,” he says.

He goes all in for most things, driven by the high standards he sets for himself. I ask him if he works too hard.

“No, because I’m never working. I mean, my job is to work at a hockey arena. It’s my dream.” And whatever success story he does allow himself, he attributes to other people. “My success isn’t because of me,” he says.

“I’m just doing my job.” -Olivier Hinse

Concordia Stingers forward Olivier Hinse was named captain of the team in his second year with the team. Photo Laura Lalonde

Now, he makes all of this seem kind of easy. He has been gifted with a supportive family, a coach who loves him and the “job” of his dreams (he often says, “I’m just doing my job”). But Hinse does work, and he works really hard. A lot of the work, though, happens in his head.

“I think too much,” he admits. “I think about what will happen if things go wrong.” So, it isn’t that Hinse is without worries. He worries a lot—about his family, about his career. Mostly, though, he worries about his mom.

“I just want my mom to be proud of me.”

Hinse has the demeanor of someone who’s used to being questioned by strangers, but not enough to be comfortable with it.

“I’m just a normal guy,” he says, almost apologetically. But what Hinse doesn’t understand is that he isn’t just a normal guy. With his passion comes a unique curiosity, a sort of childlike wonder, for what life has to offer.

“That’s why I don’t sleep much,” he says. “I love to be awake and see the world.”

On the ice, Hinse is known for his speed. In real life, there’s nothing speedy about him.

Hinse is slow and careful when he speaks, taking a step back from his life as if to study the outcome of these questions, this feature, his career.

Because no matter the place or time in his life, Hinse makes a lot of decisions, none of which leave room for error. It’s no wonder he scores the most goals: Hinse is playing to win.