During a remarkable time for Hockey Canada, Rogers Centre in Vancouver set the stage for a joyous celebration. In addition to a championship ring ceremony for members of the Canadian Under-18 women’s team (which captured gold at the 2014 IIHF U18 Worlds), along with the gold medal men’s and women’s squads from the Sochi Winter Games, another special and important event took place.
Three new members were recognized with the Order of Hockey in Canada. Based on the criteria of outstanding contributions or service to the growth and development of the sport of hockey in Canada, France St. Louis became the second woman to earn the honor. Joining her on that day as the other recipients were Steve Yzerman and Clare Drake.
In a playing career that lasted nearly two decades, St. Laurent followed Cassie Campbell (the only woman to captain consecutive teams to Olympic gold medals), the first female recipient of the Order. For St. Louis, she would manage to make her own history as she became the first woman of French Canadian heritage to have the honor bestowed upon her.
While she was the female version of Mario Lemieux during the early years of the Canadian national team, the complement to Angela James’ version of Wayne Gretzky, she blazed a trail for many hockey-playing women in Quebec. The likes of Nancy Drolet, Danielle Goyette, Kim St. Pierre and Caroline Ouellette are testament to her legacy.
Despite a playing career that included being named Quebec’s Female Athlete of the 1980s, winning the first five IIHF Women’s World Championships (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999) along with participating at the historic 1998 Winter Games, the first to feature women’s hockey, St. Louis has carved a stronger legacy after her playing career. From her renowned hockey school to her continuing commitment as an educator, she has continued to provide remarkable inspiration.
In addition to serving as the Assistant Chef de Mission for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she has also proudly served as a member of the IIHF’s Mentorship and Ambassador Program. She has shared her encyclopedic knowledge of the game by providing invaluable consultation to the French national women’s team. Of note, the growing relationship has helped open doors for French players that may not have seemed possible a decade ago.
Complemented by her role as Technical Consultant for the Montreal Carabins women’s ice hockey program, she has helped French players such as Caroline Baldin, Lore Baudrit, Betty Jouanny and Athena Locatelli earn the opportunity to compete at the university level in Canada. Such an opportunity has only helped enhance their experiences and skills, adding an exciting new dimension to their playing careers.
Working alongside Carabins’ General Manager Daniele Sauvageau (who helped Canada claim the gold at Salt Lake 2002), the two hockey pioneers have collaborated with head coach Isabelle Leclaire (the first coach to win a Clarkson Cup and a CIS title) into transforming the Carabins into a national power. Such efforts have resulted in three consecutive trips to the Canadian national title game, including a well-deserved title in 2013.
As a side note, her nod to the Order of Hockey in Canada actually represents a remarkable year for French Canadians in women’s hockey. From the outset, St. Louis’ Carabins squad faced off against the McGill Martlets in the 2014 CIS national championship game. It marked the first time that the two Montreal-based teams played each other in the game.
Caroline Prevost became the third woman to compete in consecutive Clarkson Cups with two different teams, she would emerge as the Toronto Furies leading scorer in 2014, helping the squad win its first Clarkson Cup. Another well-known Caroline, Montreal Stars all-time leading scorer Caroline Ouellette became the first French Canadian to serve as captain of the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team.
Marie-Philip Poulin entered the same stratosphere as Paul Henderson by scoring the overtime gold medal winning goal which capped off a come-from-behind victory against their eternal rivals, the United States. Of note, Melodie Daoust would become the first women’s player in Canadian history to capture IIHF U18 gold and Olympic gold.
All these accomplishments are truly an extension of the influence that France St. Louis had for a generation of young women in Quebec. Based on her remarkable accomplishments in her post-playing career, there is no question that there are many more great years left for St. Louis to continue building on a lifetime in hockey that is truly Hockey Hall of Fame worthy.