Parents take note: Kim St-Pierre's hockey career is proof that Hockey Canada’s slogan “Relax, it’s just a game’ is true.
Despite the fact that Kim’s father, André St-Pierre, was once a professional hockey player, this Olympian who hails from Châteauguay, considers herself lucky to have had parents (including her mother Louise) who have always supported her without ever pushing her.
André St-Pierre is a former professional hockey player who, having played junior hockey with the Drummondville Rangers, was a fourth round draft pick of the New York Rangers, 53rd overall, during the NHL’s 1970 draft. He played with the Omaha Knights in the CHL. As for Kim, her father let her choose her own career path.
“I was lucky because I never had any negative pressure from my parents. Some are under such pressure; they always talk about their kids in the stands. I never had to deal with that. Maybe because I was a goalie, they were nervous and concentrated on their own business. Without them, I would never have made it here. And still today, if I don’t feel like practicing, my father is not there pushing me to play all the time. When you have such support, it’s really incredible. Sometimes, we go through things that are not easy, but my parents are always there for me.”
“One day, I met a man… his daughter was eight or nine years old. He came to see me and asked me when the people from the national team were coming to see his daughter play because she had what it took to make the team. I told him: “Let her play; if not, it will be your biggest mistake.”
« When I talk to parents, I tell them to let them play. That’s what my parents did. There will come a time when you know if you have the talent to break through. If your parents push you or send you to the gym or sit you on a bike, it won’t change anything. For me, it came when I was 15-16 years old. I was playing other sports, but finally hockey took over.”
In fact, Kim the goalie did not dream of gold medals or Olympic games when she was younger. Hockey came in second when it was time to choose a sport.
“I started figure skating when I was five years old. I have two brothers, so growing up I saw them play hockey. Every winter, my dad made a huge skating rink in the backyard. There were lots of kids in my neighbourhood so at night, when we got home from school, everyone played hockey. So, during the weekend, I had figure skating and during the week, I played hockey with everyone. And then I really started liking it and asked my parents three years later “Can I try playing hockey on a real team?” I knew that I liked it and that I had the potential to play on a real team.”
“The first year, I played forward. At the beginning of the second year, they needed a goalie. It so happened that I was allowed to go in nets for only one practice. But I liked it so much – I feel in love with the equipment – that my parents didn’t have a choice; they had to say OK, you can try for one game. But after the game, I wanted more and more.”
“I don’ know (why I loved the equipment so much). Especially in those days, everything was brown and it weighed a ton… it was all old equipment, used stuff. But I loved the position, being alone in front of the net and stopping their shots. Even when we were young, there wasn’t much action and you didn’t get many shots. But the passion was still there. Even today, when I get new equipment from Sherwood, I love it… I love to try it on. There has been so much improvement in this regard; it’s fun to be part of it. I think that overall, it was the position that attracted me.”
She climbed the ranks in boy’s hockey and played at the elite level in her region at the Pee Wee and Bantam levels. But when she tried out for the midget AAA, a first failure. But television would give her something to dream about.
“In 1998, I watched the final from Nagano – never had I thought of playing female hockey -, but then, I saw that and I don’t know why but I told my mother that I could play there, or so I thought. I thought that I could play at that level. From then on, I had another dream. Playing female hockey and going to the Olympics.”
And now, Kim St-Pierre will undoubtedly be a role model for a young hockey player looking for a great challenge, a player that will see her on television or a player that will have another dream after hearing about Kim St-Pierre’s journey.
St-Pierre on the importance of playing for the love of the game
“When you think about it, I have been playing for 19 years. If I was doing it only to please my parents, I don’t think that I would be here everyday, training.”
« I even tell the young kids who ask me to have fun. If they have fun, they will improve. And if it doesn’t work out, go and play the piano or do something else. Danielle (Goyette) said it so well when she was chosen as Canada’s flag bearer: If the young kids have a passion for it, that is what will lead them to their dream.”