Could playing in front of thousands of fans, in one of the world’s most prestigious hockey tournaments and at the new Videotron Centre in Quebec City get
any more nerve-racking for a team of 11- and 12-year-old girls?
The answer is yes.
Not only will Équipe Québec Féminin be an all-girls team playing against boys for the first time in the 57-year history of the Tournoi
international de hockey pee-wee de Québec, but it will also be doing under the watchful eyes of a trio of Olympic gold medallists.
Head coach Caroline Ouellette is a four-time Olympic gold medallist. Associate coach Kim St-Pierre tended goal for Canada’s National Women’s Team for three
gold medal runs. And the other associate coach might be the biggest name in the women’s game today: two-time Olympic gold medallist Marie-Philip Poulin.
Joining them behind the bench will be Hockey Quebec’s provincial under-16 head coach, Valérie Bois, and her assistant, Camille Dumais, herself an alumna of
Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team.
“To have five women behind the bench is something I am really proud of,” says Ouellette. “It was important for me to provide our girls with role models of
women who have had their fair share of success, because there are not that many of us in the sporting world.”
While their on-ice success speaks for itself, the coaches will look to add to their legacy in a historical step in the world of women’s hockey.
The Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec has iced teams from around the world, and a number of big names have participated in past editions,
from legends like Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Patrick Roy, to current stars like Steven Stamkos, Johnny Gaudreau, and Ryan
This year though, all eyes will be on a group of 19 girls selected from every corner of Quebec as they rewrite the history books.
Former national team goaltender Manon Rhéaume, the first female to participate in the tournament in 1984, organized an exhibition game between two
all-female teams in recent years, but this year will mark the first time a team made up solely of Peewee girls will compete.
Despite a myriad of challenges along the way, perhaps the hardest part of the journey for Ouellette and the rest of the staff was simply to decide which
girls deserved a spot on the team.
Started in 2014, the Caroline Ouellette Girls Hockey Celebration is a weekend-long event hosted in Montreal that connects female hockey players aged 6 to
14 with Olympians and professional players, as well as having them play in a tournament in the Novice, Atom and Peewee divisions.
Last December, Ouellette announced that among all the Peewee-aged girls taking part in the event, the best would be selected to make up Équipe Québec Féminin and have the chance to play in the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec. Following her announcement, over 200
girls registered in the AA category alone.
“We had tough decisions to make,” Ouellette says. “We were between eight and 12 coaches who had to select the top 34 players to make up two all-star teams
that played each other to finish off my event. From those select few, we then had to pick 19 of them that would play in Quebec City.”
The end result is a group with a variety of playing backgrounds; the all-star team is made up of girls that play female Peewee AA, while others play with
boys in Peewee BB, Peewee AA and even Peewee AAA.
Despite the unfamiliarity the girls have with each other, the coaching staff remains confident that they are suited to not only participate in the Quebec
tournament, but also to compete with the boys.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to play in such a prestigious tournament, but at the same time we feel like women’s hockey deserved its spot there,”
says St-Pierre. “Now we have to prove that we belong.
“Having Marie-Philip, Caroline and myself behind the bench, we already know how badly we’ll want to win. I remember my days with Team Canada; we would play
boys’ Midget AAA teams to prepare ourselves and we always badly wanted to win those games.”
While the coaches and players have high expectations, the outcome of the games doesn’t really matter as much as simply performing well.
Playing in a minor hockey tournament that turns down over 150 teams every year, everyone knows how important a good showing can be in order for the girls’
team to keep its spot in next year’s event.
“I can see in our girls’ eyes just how excited and anxious they are to play in the tournament and it’s very rewarding,” says Ouellette. “They will play
with a lot of heart, I’m confident of that.”
“We are confident that we chose the best team possible for the tournament,” adds St-Pierre. “Now as coaches, we need to make sure that our girls have good
chemistry, that they talk with each other and that they get to know each other.”
While they’ll be living the dream on the biggest stage in Peewee hockey, Équipe Québec Féminin will be charged with much more than just winning
They’ll be proving that girls have finally earned their time to shine, out on the ice where they belong.