A leader at every level that she has played, Lisa-Marie Breton is one of the builders of early 21st Century women’s ice hockey.
While her contributions as co-founder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and founder of the Montreal Stars comprise a superlative body of work, Breton is a humble and graceful person.
The opportunity to help build the CWHL came at the behest of a former Winter Games gold medalist.
“In 2007, I was playing in the National Women’s Hockey League. The owners had disabled the league and Sami Jo Small had called me. I had been the captain of the Montreal Axion (pronounced Action), and I wanted to start a new league.”
Along with the efforts of Jennifer Botterill, Allyson Fox and Kim McCullough, Small and Breton helped to lay the foundation for the CWHL. The next step was establishing a franchise to replace the defunct Axion.
“Around May or June 2007, I called Patrick Rankine and we started the new Montreal franchise. We laid the ground work and worked tirelessly week after week. I was on the CWHL Board of Directors for five years and I was also acting General Manager. It was quite a challenge, but a lot of work.”
Her hard work reaped great reward for the players today.
“The important thing is being on the ice. We want to give girls a place to play after university. It did not make sense that for many years, girls did not have a place to play. It is a great accomplishment to provide that.”
One of her greatest legacies as a player came when she captained the Montreal Stars to the first Clarkson Cup in 2009.
“To win the first Clarkson Cup was very special. Our team worked hard and it was as a team that we won. It was a great team and we peaked as a team. Another great memory came in 2006 when the Axion won the NWHL League championship. I scored the winning goal and it has meaning for personal reasons.”
Down to earth, well grounded and mature, the Stars are truly a reflection of her values.
“The team always comes first. You have to be willing to make personal sacrifices. I try to be a mentor.” Team building is a key aspect to having a great game. “We come together by doing warm ups as a team. Every game, we have cheers.” Breton stated.
In building a great culture, Breton and the organization work towards fostering a sense of belonging and togetherness.
“Our organization often has team dinners. We want to send the message that everyone is important. At the dinners, I sit with the ones that do not play a lot, or are not as well known. I try to include everyone.”
As the team captain, it is a role that is approached with great alacrity. “I always lead by example. The work ethic is important, and we always preach the defensive side (of the game). Everyone knows their roles, and the team comes first.”
Having won three of the first four Clarkson Cups, Breton has been part of one of the greatest hockey dynasties ever. “I am really happy. The best experience is seeing the interest grow every year.”
Her legacy to the sport of women’s hockey is without question.
The contributions she has made in building the sport are similar to many other prominent builders in the early years of their respective sports; Lester Patrick (hockey), Branch Rickey (baseball) and George Halas (football).
She has left a mark on the sport that makes her worthy of not just the Order of Hockey in Canada, but the honor of entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”