Every member of Canada’s National Women’s Team began their career the same
way: by playing at the grassroots of our game. Along the way, they had
coaches who helped to shape their playing style and boost their love of
Here’s a look at two players, two coaches and two lasting impressions.
Brianne Jenner and Gil Langlois
Gil Langlois coached Brianne Jenner for one season early in her minor
hockey career. Langlois originally got involved in coaching as his kids
began playing sports. Despite their short time together with the St.
Catharines Royals, they both had an impact on each other’s lives.
Hockey Canada (HC): What about coaching made you want to continue after
your kids finished their minor hockey careers?
Gil Langlois: (GL):
I think it’s just the love of coaching and being involved with young
people. The experience of being able to try and share what you learned; I
just always had a thirst for coaching. I did tee-ball, soccer, baseball and
hockey. You know, it’s one of those drives that you either have it in you
or you don’t, I think mine never really went away so I was just trying to
get involved and give back. I didn’t play much minor sports when I was
younger, and the ability to continue to learn and try and share what I did
know with young people was pretty rewarding.
HC: What are your favourite memories from coaching Brianne?
There was really two instances that make me smile right now. I remember one
of the kids bringing a Beanie Baby into a game once and he said, ”This is
our lucky charm,” and he puts it in a stall… They’re eight-year-olds, so I
said, “OK, no problem.” And then a game or two later, there’s like half a
dozen little Beanie Babies. Everyone’s bringing them in, and Brianne
brought me one. Now I’m going out on the ice, I’m coaching and I got these
Beanie Babies hanging out of my pocket because now I’m bringing them on the
bench… She brought me a Beanie Baby as good luck, it was pretty funny… One
of the special moments that I’ll never forget is we’re in a tournament and
it was a tough game. We did the pre-game speech, like I always did. They
went out on the ice and they won the game. And after the game, Brianne came
up to me and said, “We won that one for you, Coach.” Well, you know, as a
coach, even though she’s only eight years old, it was very touching for me
to recognize that she put her heart and soul into the game and then
dedicated the win back.
HC: Gil, what message would you give to Brianne?
I would tell her how proud I am of how she’s doing in hockey and outside of
hockey. I always knew that she had those skills and those abilities, and I
am happy that success has come her way on and off the ice. And [I wish] her
and her family well going forward.
HC: Brianne, what message would you give to Gil?
Thank you for the positive impact. Coaches at grassroots are so important.
They have an opportunity to set their players up for a great relationship
with hockey throughout their lives, and Gil did that for me. It made me so
excited to go to the rink every day, and regardless if I made hockey a
career or not, I always had a great relationship with the game and just
learned so much from having a positive relationship with hockey. I think
those coaches, they have enormous impacts and I thank him for having that
positive impact on me.
Jill Saulnier and Darren Saulnier
Jill Saulnier’s father, Darren, was actively involved with the hockey teams
she played for growing up in Nova Scotia. Whether he was a coach or a
volunteer, Darren had a special connection to hockey as he watched his
children grow up playing the game.
HC: Darren, how did you get involved with coaching?
Darren Saulnier (DS):
I played hockey when I was younger, my brothers as well. I knew hockey was
probably going to be passed down to the kids, so both my son, Brennan, and
Jillian when they were younger, I got them on skates at a young age. Then I
was putting rinks in the backyard as most hockey families in Canada do, so
that’s kind of where it started. From there, they entered into Timbits and
I volunteered to be a part of that. It was my son who started it for a year
or so, and then Jill decided she wanted to give it a shot. I started
coaching both of them at a young age in the Timbits program and then they
stayed together and played boys hockey until Jill switched over to girls. I
was involved as a coach when they were younger and then kind of helping out
coaches and being assistants as they went up the ranks, and in Jill’s last
year of playing before she left to go away… she played one year of girls
hockey and I coached that team.
HC: What moment stands out to you about Jill growing up playing hockey?
One of the things that stood out to me was that she was accepted into boys
hockey for the younger years. I think that was the core of her really
getting passionate about hockey. Because she was able to do that and
connect with her brother and that group of boys, she was accepted. I think
she really fed off that… I think that was key that she had her brother and
the contacts with those boys at that earlier age just to make her feel
HC: Darren, what message would you give to your daughter?
I would just tell Jill to continue on her path, living her dream. What Jill
thrives on most and what she wants to see in a team is chemistry and see
the bond of the team. I know she recently said to me [that this team is] a
really tight-knit group and she said I’ve been on a lot of teams, but she
said the chemistry of this group is really second to none.
HC: Jill, what message would you give to your father?
Thank you for the time. Thank you for sitting on the ice cream bucket
throwing pucks for me in the backyard. Thank you for bringing me to the
track and teaching me how to work hard and run laps and keep my passion
alive. I think often on a journey we really lose our passion once in a
while because, you know, the road is not easy. And he was just the guy that
brought me back to my goal.
Looking to get involved behind the bench in your community? Contact
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