In the growing history of Canadian women’s hockey, Quebec is one of the most prolific provinces for supplying talent. Spanning over several decades, the rich history of women’s ice hockey in Quebec features some of the most legendary players to have participated in the game.
One of the elite leagues in Canadian women’s hockey was the League Régionale du Hockey au Féminin in Québec. During the 1980s and 1990s, the league would develop many players that would represent Quebec at the Esso Women’s Nationals. That early era introduced the rest of Canada to living legends such as Nancy Drolet, France St. Louis (a former Quebec athlete of the decade), and Therese Brisson (a member of Concordia University’s Sports Hall of Fame).
While the Winter Games helped bring awareness to the women’s game, heroes such as Caroline Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin made many Canadian hockey fans' golden dreams come true. Ouellette would score the gold medal winning goal at Torino 2006, while Marie-Philip Poulin scored at Vancouver 2010.
The 2000s brought professional women’s hockey to Quebec with the Montreal Wingstar (later renamed the Montreal Axion). The birth of the Canadian Women’s Hockey List, brought the Montreal Stars, and with it, the first dynasty in modern Canadian women’s hockey. Led by captain Lisa-Marie Breton, the Stars won the first Clarkson Cup.
Collegiate hockey soon took notice of the quality of women’s hockey in Quebec. Although players such as Sabrina Harbec, Jesse Scanzano and Dominique Thibault did not make this list, their great contributions to NCAA hockey are legendary. McGill University in Montreal boasts one of the greatest women’s ice hockey teams, with a winning streak that lasted over 100 games. In acknowledging the impact of Quebec in Canadian women’s hockey, here is a list of the 10 Greatest Players Ever.
The future of Hockey Canada, 19-year-old Mélodie Daoust is a hockey prodigy. One of the most highly touted prospects in 2011, Daoust refused overtures from Cornell, Dartmouth and Boston University to play with the McGill Martlets of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The move paid off as Daoust won the CIS Rookie of the Year Award, and helped McGill to a bronze medal at the 2012 CIS Nationals.
Her first exposure in the national spotlight came in 2010 when she helped the Canadian National Under-18 Team claim the gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 Women's Worlds. For her efforts, her image was immortalized on a hockey card in the 2011 Upper Deck World of Sports card collection. On January 8, 2011, Daoust would be an emergency call-up for the Montreal Stars. In a contest versus the Burlington Barracudas, Daoust logged three points in her Stars debut.
A member of the first Canadian women's ice hockey team that competed at the Winter Games, Brisson won a silver medal in the sport's debut at Nagano 1998. As a former player with the Concordia Stingers program, Brisson was inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame. She would also play for the Montreal Axion of the now-defunct National Women's Hockey League.
Brisson made her first apperance for Canada at the 1994 IIHF Women's World Championships as a 28-year-old rookie. Despite her age, Brisson would have an eight-year career with Team Canada. Her career would culminate with a long-awaited Winter Games gold medal at Salt Lake 2002. Currently, she is a member of the IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program.
Quite possibly the best captain in women’s ice hockey today, Lisa-Marie Breton’s first exposure to competitive hockey came with Team Quebec at the National Junior Championship in 1993. Breton would continue to build her legacy as a member of the Concordia Stingers. She is among a rare group of women to have played in five CIS National championships. The first superstar in the history of the CIS Nationals, Breton would earn an All-Canadian nod in 2000-01.
As a co-founder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Breton would become the general manager and head of public relations for the Montreal Stars. Her greatest moment with the Stars would come on March 19, 2009. As the Stars captain, she led the team to the first-ever Clarkson Cup championship. It would be the first of three Cup titles for Breton.
The first women's ice hockey player to capture the imaginations of sports fans, Manon Rheaume paved the way for a generation of players. Having competed for Sherbrooke in the League Régionale du Hockey au Féminin, Rheaume would gain national prominence after playing for the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In 1992, Phil Esposito of the Tampa Bay Lightning signed her to a contract. Rheaume would be the first woman to play in an NHL exhibition game. The historic game was against the St. Louis Blues as Rheaume allowed two goals in one period of play. A few weeks later, she would become the first woman to play a game in the International Hockey League, as she stood between the pipes for the Atlanta Knights.
At the Winter Games of Nagano in 1998, Rheaume was a goaltender for the first Canadian women's contingent to compete in women's hockey. Despite winning a silver medal, Rheaume played on the world's biggest stage. In 2000, Rheaume would play at forward for the Montreal Wingstar, a team that featured future Montreal Stars general manager Meg Hewings, and Triple Gold club member Caroline Ouellette.
The first Boston University Terriers player to be named an All-American, Ward is used to making history. The only women's hockey player to have won Winter Games gold, IIHF World Gold, a Clarkson Cup, while playing in both the CIS National Championship and NCAA National Championship, Ward is one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport.
Having learned the game at Dawson College, the school would eventually retire her number. A CIS Rookie of the Year with the McGill Martlets, her teammates included national team members Charline Labonte, Cathy Chartrand and Ann-Sophie Bettez. A building block for the Montreal Stars of the CWHL, she will be counted upon to anchor their blue line for years to come.
Having been named the captain for the upcoming Boston University Terriers season, Poulin is used to the spotlight. At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Poulin became a national hero when she scored the gold-medal-winning goal against Jessie Vetter of the United States.
As a 16-year-old, Poulin played with the Montreal Stars in the inaugural season of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. Her debut with the Canadian National Team came in 2009 with a silver medal at the IIHF Women's Worlds in Finland.
Following in the footsteps of Manon Rheaume, Charline Labonte became the second female goalie to compete in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Playing with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, her image would adorn a trading card by Upper Deck (1999-2000 UD Prospects set, card No. 54).
Another player that Labonte would emulate was Lisa-Marie Breton. Like Breton, Labonte would appear in five CIS National Championships. She would accomplish the feat with McGill University. With six medals from IIHF World Championship Play, two Winter Games gold medals and several CIS records, she would be the Montreal Stars' first selection in the 2012 CWHL Draft.
A talented hockey player, Nancy Drolet is also known for her business acumen. In addition to her playing duties with the Sherbrooke Jofa-Titan squad in the League Régionale du Hockey, she was also its general manager. Her professional playing career would take her to the Sainte-Julie Pantheres and the Vancouver Griffins in the National Women's Hockey League, respectively.
The greatest legacy Drolet left on the game was with her two gold-medal-winning goals. In an emotional game versus the United States at the 1997 IIHF Women's Worlds, Drolet notched the game-winning tally. She would repeat the feat again at the 2000 IIHF tourney. Once again, Drolet would register the winner in overtime.
The greatest goaltender in the history of women's ice hockey, St. Pierre's legacy is unmatched. The first goaltender to qualify for the Triple Gold Club for Women (Winter Games gold, IIHF World Gold, Clarkson Cup), St. Pierre's career is an inevitable log of history-making moments.
On November 15, 2003, she became the first woman to play for the McGill Redmen, as the squad played the Ryerson Rams. She would replace Carey Price at a Montreal Canadiens practice on October 23, 2008. This would make St. Pierre the second woman (following Manon Rheaume) to skate with NHL players.
A three-time Winter Games gold medalist, St. Pierre can also boast two Clarkson Cup titles to her credit. She was between the pipes when the first Clarkson Cup was contested in 2009. In an emotional match versus the Minnesota Whitecaps of the WWHL, St. Pierre was a crucial factor in the Stars' historic win.
A notable lacrosse player, St. Louis gained national fame for her hockey playing abilities. As a member of the first Canadian team to participate in women's hockey at the Winter Games, St. Louis was 39. Despite a silver medal, the Quebec female athlete of the 1980s was a veteran presence at the 1999 IIHF Women's Worlds. Playing alongside Nancy Drolet and Therese Brisson, the then 40-year-old walked away from international play with a gold medal.
St. Louis would play with the Montreal Wingstar of the National Women's Hockey League in the 2000s. By decade's end, St. Louis was in a consulting role with the Montreal Carabins of the CIS. As a member of the IIHF Ambassador and Mentorship program, her expertise continues to shine in the growing game.
Simply the best, Caroline Ouellette's resume in hockey would be the envy of any in the game. As a three-time Winter Games gold medalist, Ouellette is a key leader for the Canadian team. A five-time champion at the IIHF level, she scored the gold-medal-winning goal at the 2012 Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. Her three Clarkson Cup titles make Ouellette a member of the Triple Gold Club. As a former member of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Ouellette claimed three Frozen Four titles. Her 229 career points with UMD rank her in the top ten in all-time NCAA scoring.