After spending the 2017-18 season guiding the women’s team at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, Valérie Bois earned an invitation to meet with Meg Hewings, general manager of the Canadiennes de Montréal of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
“It was a bit surreal for me to go meet with the team,” Bois says. “I didn’t really know what the purpose was initially. When I was offered an assistant coach position, I asked myself if I was ready for that. It was a new challenge that was quite big, yet so exciting. I told myself, ‘Yes, I want to grow as a coach.’”
Accepting the job put her on the same bench with Canadian hockey luminaries Caroline Ouellette, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, and Danièle Sauvageau, who led Canada to its first-ever Olympic title in 2002.
Soon after the resignation of Dany Brunet in late November 2018, Ouellette was named interim head coach, with Sauvageau stepping in for games Ouellette had to miss due to previous commitments.
Ouellette, Sauvageau, Bois and fellow assistant Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux came together to form the organization’s first all-female coaching staff in a decade.
Ouellette joining the organization was a welcomed reunion for Bois. She had already worked with the four-time Clarkson Cup champion on several occasions – most notably they guided the first all-female team at the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec in 2016.
“We knew how we each liked to work and the kinds of systems we preferred, so that [transition] went well.”
The strong coaching alliance was built through mutual respect. Bois says she admires how Ouellette has given back to the game by developing the next generation of players, and she thinks Ouellette will contribute to the growth of female coaches.
Her prior history with Sauvageau was a single conversation more than five years ago where Sauvageau encouraged Bois to visit the Université de Montréal to get a sense of what it takes to succeed coaching in the post-secondary ranks.
Bois is thrilled that she had the opportunity to form a tighter relationship with Sauvageau as her coaching acumen grew as a result.
“She challenged me to go deeper when doing video or looking at statistics,” she says. “She would push me to go beyond the obvious to understand why things happened and what changes were needed for the team or a player.”
Her self-confidence also grew as a coach over the past season due to Sauvageau’s advice to “be convinced with what you bring to the team,” and that “you need to be confident with the final choice you make.”
Bois tasted success with Ouellette and Sauvageau as the Canadiennes advanced to the Clarkson Cup final against the Calgary Inferno. The Inferno won the title with a 5-2 decision.
After spending a season improving as a coach under Sauvageau and Ouellette, Bois took the next step of her growth process by attending Hockey Canada’s High Performance II seminar last week to attain her HP2 certification.
Completing the seminar was a worthwhile experience because of the variety of topics covered in the sessions and because of the fellow coaches she met.
Bois is looking forward to utilizing her newly-enhanced skillset this fall when she joins the staff of the women’s team at Bishop’s University, which competes in Division I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
She will also collaborate with Ouellette to build a team that will compete at the 2020 Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec, with her sights set on a future opportunity to work with Canada’s National Women’s Program.