Passing through the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec, Marie-Philip Poulin, Mélodie Daoust and Ann-Renée Desbiens are still floating on their Olympic cloud. Beyond the accolades, the three gold medalists note, however, that the development of Quebec women's hockey continues to encounter pitfalls.
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Behind the beaming smiles of these three great ladies of hockey, the bitterness was palpable and the tone of concern.
First there was the report of the committee on the revival of hockey which sounded the alarm. According to the statistics given, even if the population of Ontario is only 1.7 times greater than that of Quebec, there are eight times more female players registered in hockey.
To give the lead in the wing to the growth of women's hockey in Quebec, nothing like the tile announced this week with the closure of the program at Cégep Saint-Laurent. Noting the outcry, the institution later corrected the situation by speaking of a “pause”, but the news remains disturbing.
“Every time we think we are taking a step forward, we realize that we are taking two steps back,” goalkeeper Ann-Renée Desbiens summed up well yesterday, before a busy autograph session. (see other text below).
Work to do
National team superstar Marie-Philip Poulin also made no secret of her frustration.
"It's very unfortunate," she lamented. We see once again that there is still a lot of work to be done on the female side, whether in any aspect. To see that happen again today, it's really a shame.
“There is going to have to be something in place to bring this program back. Saint-Laurent has had several successful years, and that's sad. Caroline (Ouellette) played there, younger, like many women. I hope there will be something in place, ”she wished.
Mélodie Daoust also seemed in shock.
“Saint-Laurent has always been a prestigious program, with good coaches and good players who graduated from there. This is another damaging news for women's hockey. It is the leaders who make sure that it will not work. We can't help but be frustrated by this news because it could have been a more positive turning point.
The professional avenue
While the sport is drooling at the base of the pyramid, the best players in the country continue to work in the shadows to set up a professional league which would see the light of day in January 2023.
“We created the Players Association to bring together all the best players in the same movement, to eventually have a league. We have the right people behind us, we have to trust them and be patient. It takes time, but all great things take time,” said Poulin.
For Desbiens, even if the advent of a professional league would not solve all the ills, it would nevertheless be a source of inspiration for young people.
“We are only three Quebecers on the national team. There has to be a succession. You have to start with the youngest, but also have a professional league to inspire them. Young girls must have the opportunity to see us play and meet us. This is an important first step. »
The line to meet the three hockey players of the Canadian team stretched for a long time.
Young and old were feverish and a few tears of joy were even there.
"Come on, don't cry my big one, it's just Marie-Philip Poulin, there's nothing there! “, joked Mélodie Daoust to a young admirer moved to meet Poulin.
The popularity of the three hockey players is undeniable. After a warm reception on the ice of the Videotron Center for a ceremonial face-off, the three ladies signed autographs for an hour and thirty minutes for an audience mainly made up of young hockey players.
“Quietly, not quickly, we are coming down from the Olympic cloud. It's been a few months already, but we still have the chance to participate in events like this, to be recognized and to share our Olympic experience with people," said Poulin, who had taken part in the tournament herself. with the boys of the Beauce-Amiante Elites, in 2004.
“This is where your dream begins. It's super exciting to share our passion. This is a landmark peewee tournament for all young people, ”she continued.
Behind the women's team
Poulin also praised the efforts of his former teammate Caroline Ouellette, who put together the all-female team that has been playing at the tournament since 2016.
“The effort of Caro, who puts this in place every year, is incredible. It's wonderful to see. It's just the beginning of something big that allows these girls to dream. They find themselves at the same level as the boys and that is important,” she said.
As to whether the next possible step for the competition would be the creation of an all-female division at the Quebec pee-wee tournament, Poulin says that “that would be great”.
Tournament general manager Patrick Dom said the idea would have been impossible just a few years ago, but he would discuss the matter with his counterpart at Hockey Quebec, Jocelyn Thibault.