As the Montreal Stars look to avenge their visceral loss to the Boston Blades in the 2013 Clarkson Cup, one of the most inspiring stories is the comeback of Nathalie Dery. One of the greatest defenders in the history of the CWHL, she is a three-time Clarkson Cup champion that has helped to establish women’s professional hockey on Montreal’s sporting landscape.
Her road to the rink may be the catalyst which sets a championship tone for the upcoming season. Having retired from competitive play after winning the Clarkson Cup championship in 2012, she would join Patrick Rankine’s coaching staff for the Stars in the autumn. She was more than qualified to serve on his staff, considering she spent four seasons on legendary Les Lawton’s staff with the Concordia Stingers.
The path from playing to coaching to playing again emulated the career of another legendary Montreal blueliner; Doug Harvey. The significant difference was that Dery also gave birth. As her pregnancy progressed, she did not finish the season but remained in close contact with the Stars. During the summer of 2013, Dery would give birth to a baby girl named Kimberly.
As one of the few mothers competing in the league, Dery’s comeback is a special moment for the league. This is complemented by the comeback of another defensive stalwart, Ashley Pendleton of the Brampton Thunder. Having retired last season to attend Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst, Ontario, she is another role model for young female players.
Having competed in the CWHL’s inaugural season of 2007-08, Dery is one of less than 20 competitors from that first season still competing in the league. Stars teammates Liz Breton, Jenny Lavigne and Kim St. Pierre also hold that distinction. Named a League All-Star during that inaugural year, she is a welcome addition to a league that has endured the loss of over 30 players to retirement or the chance to compete in Sochi 2014.
With the Stars not immune to this temporary loss of talent, they have suffered a league-high loss of nine players to the Canadian and US Centralization Camps. Therefore, Dery’s return could not have come at a better time.
Despite the loss of so many Montreal players, Dery had the chance to reunite with them at an exhibition match on October 17. Contested in Boisbriand, Quebec, Dery had the chance to see Stars goaltender and Boisbriand native Charline Labonte earn a 6-3 win over the United States. Caroline Ouellette, the all-time scoring leader in Stars history also scored a goal for Canada in the win as Dery’s daughter had the chance to attend her first-ever Team Canada game.
Heading into the Stars home opener on November 16 against the Toronto Furies, she will help bolster a blueline which features Cathy Chartrand and Carly Dupont-Hill. With the drafting of young players such as Camille Dumais and Casandra Dupuis that are poised for stardom, they shall benefit tremendously from her experience.
In addition, two other rookies are very familiar with Dery, having both been associated with the Concordia Stingers. Emilie Bocchia and Laurie Proulx-Duperre shall have the luxury of enjoying a better adjustment to the CWHL due to being able to call her a teammate and an influence. Also working as an educator, Dery is a natural leader whose presence will only make everyone around her a better player; which might make the difference in terms of hoisting the Clarkson in 2014.