As women’s hockey in Montreal gets ready for a new and exciting chapter with the arrival of Les Canadiennes, part of that momentum is attributed to the sensational Marie-Philip Poulin. While she has gained hockey immortality for her two gold medal clinching goals in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, the chance to help professional women’s hockey grow in Montreal, and increase awareness of the game throughout Quebec, can only add to her substantial legacy.
Despite being a first-round selection in the 2015 CWHL Draft, the reality is that Poulin does not qualify as a rookie. It may come as a surprise for younger fans to know that Poulin actually competed during the league’s nascent years (2007-10). Along with fellow 2015 draft pick Leslie Oles, the two were teenaged phenoms during the CWHL’s inaugural season, frequently lighting the lamp for the Montreal Stars.
Not only did Poulin finish among the league’s top five scorers that season (despite missing time to compete in the inaugural IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds), she would become the recipient of the league’s first-ever Rookie of the Year Award in 2008.
The following year, Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau, who would also be teammates in Sochi, were part of the first-ever Clarkson Cup championship team, making hockey history with the Stars. Following the Vancouver Winter Games, Poulin would return to the Stars, helping the club finish first overall in league standings, subsequently qualifying for a berth in the Clarkson Cup playoffs.
Rougeau, a Stars first-round pick in 2014 joins Oles and Poulin among a group of former teen phenoms that contributed to the franchise’s developing years. All return as franchise players, blossoming into cornerstones for the future to be built upon.
Considering that the 2015-16 CWHL season shall represent the fourth in Poulin’s stellar career, she has noticed that there is a big difference compared to her first tour in the league. From the quality of talent to fan interest, Poulin comments on the key differences,
“It is definitely a different experience. This organization has been through so much over the years. The caliber of the girls is pretty awesome. You can also tell that people are interested in the organization, and I think the team has done a great job!”
One aspect concerning Poulin’s return to CWHL hockey in Montreal is the remarkable growth she has experienced as a leader. From serving as a captain with the Boston University Terriers, where she rewrote the program’s scoring records, such a remarkable chapter would lead to greater glory at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
Poulin had the unique distinction of serving as the captain for the Canadian women’s team in Malmo, where Canada once again played for the gold medal. Taking into account that less than a dozen women with the Canadian national team have ever enjoyed the privilege of donning the C on their jersey, it represents a remarkable milestone in her career. One of the youngest captains in program history, she follows in the proud legacy of captains such as Sue Scherer, Stacy Wilson, Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette, to name a few.
“For sure I was proud. Caroline Ouellette has been the captain for many years, and she has always been my role model. To follow her and be named as the captain was quite an honor. To play for your country and to wear the C, nothing compares to it. It definitely motivated me.”
While this upcoming season may be best defined as a transition, from the Stars transforming into Les Canadiennes, to a landmark sponsorship with the NHL’s Canadiens, a key objective is to claim the fourth Clarkson Cup in franchise history. As Poulin was part of the first-ever win in 2009, the chance to make history again and contribute to the club capturing its first Cup as Les Canadiennes is a tremendous source of motivation.
Heading into this season, Poulin is one of three women on the roster of Les Canadiennes (including Ouellette and Rougeau) that have experienced IIHF World Gold, Winter Games gold and the Clarkson Cup. A Cup triumph in 2016 would welcome goaltender Charline Labonte into the exclusive Triple Gold Club for Women. As a side note, it would also make assistant coach Liz Breton the first to win the Cup as a player and as a coach.
As the former Stars experienced visceral Cup finals losses in 2013 and 2015, Poulin does not want to see such frustration develop into a trend for the franchise. While it would be a dream for Montreal hockey fans to see Poulin score the Cup-clinching goal in 2016, there is no question that a Cup victory is among her key goals upon her return to CWHL hockey,
“It would be great. It is one of our goals this year to bring the Cup back to Montreal. We have a great group of leaders on the team and a wonderful organization. Every season, it is a new team. To win the Cup will be a great challenge. One of my goals this year is to push to get it back here.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jess Desjardins