The accomplishments in Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux’s career cannot be measured in terms of just goals and points. Such metrics cannot measure the size of a player’s heart or determination. Her greatest legacy may stem from the fact that she brought a consistency and durability to the game while setting a standard for how to conduct one’s self while treating others with a dignified and remarkable friendliness.
Regardless of the intensity of a rivalry with another team or player, no opponent had ever said anything bad about Breton-Lebreux, testament to her impact. From her grassroots association with the game at both the CIS and the CWHL level, to the delightful demeanor that made her a fan favorite, her character is truly unmatched.
In making the visceral decision to hang up her skates, Breton-Lebreux leaves behind a legacy worthy of Hall of Fame status. Although she pondered said decision in the aftermath of the 2013-14 CWHL season, it was only fitting that she returned for one more season.
Suiting up for the 2014-15 campaign, it provided her with the opportunity to make history one more time. As one of the league’s co-founders, it was only fitting that she earned the opportunity to compete in the CWHL’s inaugural All-Star Game in December 2014.
Not only was she selected first overall in the CWHL All-Star Game Fantasy Frozen Draft, she would go on to score a goal in the third period, propelling Team Red to a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind victory.
The final regular season and postseason games in her CWHL career would both occur against the Stars archrival Boston Blades. Although both games resulted in heartbreaking losses, the end result was a personal victory for Breton-Lebreux.
During the final regular season game, which was on home ice, Breton-Lebreux was appropriately named the First Star of the Game. A remarkable gesture of sportsmanship was displayed by the game’s Second and Third Stars, Genevieve Lacasse and Brianna Decker. Despite suiting up for the opposing Blades, the two posed with Breton-Lebreux for a memorable photo, commemorating a magical moment in CWHL history.
Like Wayne Gretzky did in his final game with the New York Rangers, Breton-Lebreux had the chance to skate around home ice and wave farewell to her devoted fans, leaving CWHL hockey with an iconic moment. Had Breton-Lebreux made the decision in the off-season to retire, this opportunity would have been taken away from her, not providing her with closure, a chance to say goodbye to fans.
Once the emotions of such an event had passed, the moment could not be defined by a simple good-bye. It was truly an encouragement to continue and build on top of the foundation that she has established. Her vision for the CWHL has grown from more than just a place to give women a place to play, but an ideal format to present the female game, while showing others a special interpretation of hockey and what it means to the empowered women who grace its ice.
Even women who had never played hockey or competed in any sport could identify with Breton and the other women who helped start the CWHL. Breton’s efforts would prove to be socially engaging, positively changing the perception of women into strong individuals that are able to make worthwhile contributions in any field that they choose.
While CWHL hockey remains an ambitious project of continuous improvement, it was an endeavor that represented a special time in society. A time when women were truly staking their claim and assuming key roles in traditionally male dominated areas that may have been deemed inconceivable a generation ago.
Although the Blades would capture the coveted Clarkson in overtime against the sullen Stars, it was an opportunity for Breton-Lebreux to compete one final time in one of the biggest stages of women’s hockey. Taking into account that she not only captained the first Cup winning team in 2009, she was also the first to captain three Cup winners, a record that may stand for several years.
The intensity of that final game truly showed that the labors and efforts of the seven sensational women who helped to launch the CWHL were well worth it. Breton-Lebreux had the chance to see the 2015 Clarkson Cup title game as a transition to an even greater era to come. Not only did Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight establish themselves as the next great American hockey heroes, while the Stars have a remarkable number of Quebec developed hockey heroes ready to add to the club’s proud legacy. In addition, the Cup-winning goal was scored by European Janine Weber, marking the first time in Cup history that such a feat happened.
For the Stars, it marks the loss of another highly valued leader. Since 2011, the club has lost the likes of many remarkable women to retirement. Beginning with Annie Guay, the list of others includes Stephanie Denino, Nathalie Dery and Kelly Sudia.
Although Stars fans can only hope that she will remain part of the franchise, either in a coaching or managerial capacity, there is no question that she must be part of the game’s future. For now, her role at Concordia University as a trainer and assistant coach ensures that CIS hockey shall remain the better for her presence.
While her leadership skills may be emulated, it would be impossible to duplicate, as she is truly a once-in-a-lifetime competitor. Her role as not just a player, but a builder, helped bring her to the forefront of the game, setting a high standard for achievement.
Photo credits: Final game – Louis-Charles Dumais
Clarkson Cup – Jess Desjardins