Caroline Ouellette: Trailblazer for Women’s Hockey

MONTREAL — During her childhood, Caroline Ouellette dreamed of playing for the Montreal Canadiens, like her idol Mats Naslund.

Ouellette was honored Thursday night by her childhood team, about a month after her Hall of Fame induction.

During her career, she, of course, never reached the NHL. However, she was able to win Olympic gold four times with the Canadian team and establish her place among the best forwards in the history of women’s hockey.

Former NHL players often say they dreamed of winning the Stanley Cup and not being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which makes the honor even more special. For Ouellette, it was even more unthinkable that this honor would one day be awarded to him.

After all, it took her two years to convince her parents, André and Nicole, to sign her up for hockey.

“However, I played baseball at 7 years old and it was okay. And he (his father) played hockey, but he had never seen a girl do it,” Ouellette said on Thursday, before being honored before the duel between the Canadian and the Los Angeles Kings.

“My father even took me to watch ringette, and I’m not taking anything away from ringette, but I wanted to play for the Montreal Canadiens,” she added.

Ouellette points out that her parents were some of her biggest supporters once she started playing hockey at age 9. She was able to thank them by inviting them to Toronto for her induction into the Hall of Fame on November 13.

“I would never have reached the highest level without my parents,” she insisted. I always looked for ways to thank them, whether by inviting them to world championships, etc. To see their reaction, how special it was for them… Seeing the joy of my father and mother, I will never forget that.

The reality for young girls who want to play hockey is very different today. They are better supervised, whether playing with each other or with the boys.

Ouellette says he started to feel a real change after the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, when Canada defeated the United States in the final thanks in particular to the exploits of Marie-Philip Poulin.

“Even the guys wanted to have photos with Marie-Philip Poulin or Kim St-Pierre,” she noted. They recognized us and appreciated us. Before, it was ‘pfff, a girl who plays hockey…’”

Over the years, Ouellette has experienced several attempts to create professional women’s hockey leagues, notably wearing the colors of the Montreal Canadiennes in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Ouellette is today an assistant coach with the Canadian national team and the assistant to her wife, Julie Chu, on the women’s hockey team at Concordia University in Montreal. She will closely follow the beginnings of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, which will launch its first campaign on January 2 and which will notably have teams in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

“It is certain that there will be things to correct and improve,” she noted. But if the best Canadian, American and European players can all play together, that’s incredible. It will help other nations to catch up with the best. It will improve the quality of women’s hockey all over the world.”

The visibility given to the new league will also ensure that no father will be able to tell his daughter that hockey is only for boys, as was the case 35 years ago.

2023-12-08 05:54:21
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