One of the most successful women’s hockey organizations of the decade, the legacy of the Montreal Stars/Canadiennes franchise extends beyond the ice. Among its hallmarks are a dedicated legion of volunteers whose collective efforts are a key contributor towards establishing such success.
Proud to be part of this group includes photographer Céline Gélinas, whose vision is contributing towards a visual history, an empowering narrative that will be treasured in the years to follow. Such an effort extends the legacy of several other highly talented and dedicated photographers that have helped compose this narrative during a dominant decade.
As a self-taught photographer, Gélinas’ passion for sport quickly became evident. Honing her craft on the gridirons of high school football, the transition to the rink was inevitable. Finding a home with Les Canadiennes, Gélinas was part of a distinctive group of talented, yet devoted individuals whose approach to the medium of photography intersected with their love of the game.
Worth noting, some of the photographers for other clubs during Gélinas’ inaugural season in the league consisted of the likes of Dave Holland (Calgary Inferno), Jess Bazal (Brampton Thunder) and Chris Tanouye (Toronto Furies), among others. All adding to the legacy of Richard Scott and Brandon Taylor, two of the league’s earliest photographers whose works helped compose a rich narrative, providing the league with a series of visual treasures.
“I started photography in 2010 and I was self-taught. What was initially a hobby soon became a passion. I started studying sports photography in 2013, starting with high school football. Then, I devoted myself to women’s hockey and the CWHL since the 2015-2016 season.
A competition is at the origin of my collaboration with Les Canadiennes, after volunteering for an event at the Bell Complex. I wanted to check with the volunteer manager about the possibility of using my camera at a future event. That was when I was told that the team was looking for an official photographer. A sincere interest has remained since then.”
Prior to Gélinas, the club enjoyed an embarrassment of riches behind the lens. Like so many other photographers doing relevant work in the game at all levels, the contributions of Louis-Charles Dumais (also a concert photographer whose subjects have included Céline Dion) and Jess Desjardins were the visual foundation for the transition from Stars to Canadiennes. Having also given her time for the inaugural Caroline Ouellette women’s hockey festival, Desjardins’ passion as a filmmaker resulted in a documentary which gained screen time throughout the city, as her passionate vision provided unique insight into the club.
Gélinas is creating a body of work just as important in club lore. Undoubtedly, the work of these tremendous women overlapped as the scale, quality and magnitude of the work was essential in navigating through the labyrinth of nomenclature, notable events and new arrivals in the bleu, blanc et rouge jersey.
From the Clarkson Cup to the CWHL All-Star Game, to iconic matches hosted at Bell Centre, all three became part of a group of dedicated practitioners, helping to shape the mythos of the team, along with the art form of sports photography, their aesthetics intertwining, akin to the on-ice chemistry found in a highly successful line of pure scorers.
Serving in the role of chief photographer for the 2017-18 campaign, a milestone that adds luster to a promising career with Les Canadiennes, Gélinas accepts such a role with an appreciation for the bigger picture. From a pictorial perspective, the glorious elation that comes with scoring a goal is only part of what makes such a captivating image. The struggles and the exertion of sweat and determination are inextricable components of what leads to said goal. Such elements are just as intriguing to capture for Gélinas,
“Acting as chief photographer this year, it is with great pride that I carry out my assignments while responding to requests received via the media. High intensity and more physical encounters particularly appeal to me and are part of the moments I enjoy immortalizing."
Valuing the essence of teamwork, it is more than just a philosophical approach towards Gélinas carrying out her duties. The feeling of family which has defined the culture of such a proud organization is evident both on and off the ice, embodying Gélinas’ raison d’etre,
“Without falling into clichés, it is a united team, like a big family, which all the staff involved are proud to be part of. A complicity and mutual trust with the coaching staff allows me great latitude of movement and privileged access during meetings; thus combining the useful with the pleasant!”
The 2017 Clarkson Cup was a peak accomplishment for Gélinas, connecting emotion with craft. Such an impactful win provided powerful contest resulted in redemption for Les Canadiennes. After losing three of the last four Finals (2013, 2015, 2016), the cruel yet agonizing choke label could have applied to such a highly accomplished team consisting of scoring champions and world-class goaltending.
With a group looking to erase the failures of the past, keen on building on its status as the first dynasty in CWHL history, included Cup victories in 2009, 2011 and 2012, the result was an iconic achievement, revealing a rich moment in which the shared journeys of two women’s hockey luminaries resulted in a highly emotional passing of the torch.
Immortalized within the parameters of Gélinas’ lens, it captured a moment for Marie-Philip Poulin and Caroline Ouellette that not only accentuated their golden glories in the Winter Games, symbolizing their friendship, it provided Gélinas with a prized gem in her portfolio,
“My favorite photo is without a doubt the one where team captain Marie-Philip Poulin presented the Clarkson Cup to teammate Caroline Ouellette. It is a point of great pride for me to have been able to capture and render, through this shot, all the emotion and intensity of this moment.”
This season, there is a feeling of serendipitous coincidence as Ouellette plays another key role in Gélinas’ contributions to Canadiennes heritage. With Ouellette having made her comeback in the New Year, every time that she graces the ice adds to a surreal legacy as one of Quebec’s greatest players, allowing Gélinas a treasured opportunity to chronicle this compelling chapter in her hockey career, one poised to yield many more prized gems.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Céline Gélinas
To learn more about Gélinas, please visit: https://www.photos-Gelinas.com/