Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux shows tremendous act of leadership by passing on her captaincy

Although Montreal Stars living legend Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux is far from being long in the tooth, she has made a bold move by relinquishing her captaincy. Such an act is symbolic of the unselfish and team-first approach that Breton-Lebreux has employed throughout her storied career.

Image by Pasquale Stalteri

Image by Pasquale Stalteri

Whether it was leading the Concordia Stingers to CIS national titles as an All-Canadian or helping establish the Montreal Stars as one of the most prominent women’s teams in the world, she approached every victory as a team effort. In looking towards establishing a strong future for the Stars, Breton has appointed Cathy Chartrand to be her successor.

Like Breton, Chartrand also knows what it means to don the captaincy at the CIS level. Having served as team captain for the McGill Martlets program, she has also had the distinction of earning All-Canadian nods while claiming a CIS national crown. As the scoring champion among defenders during the 2012-13 CWHL season, Chartrand also holds the distinction of having manned the blueline for the Canadian national team.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, Breton-Lebreux had the opportunity to carve a unique mark for herself. Had she chosen to retain the captaincy, she would have been the longest serving captain in all of pro hockey this year. Ottawa Senators (NHL) captain Daniel Alfredsson held that honor last season yet he signed with the Detroit Red Wings during the off-season.

Considering the level of prestige that would have surrounded Breton-Lebreux had she remained captain, her focus has always remained on the team first. It is that quality which makes her a true leader. As the first captain in CWHL history to win three Clarkson Cups, she would be the first to attest that those victories came as a team effort.

For the new faces that comprise the Stars roster this season, hardcore fans can only hope that the rookies understand what Breton-Lebreux has meant towards building their game. To play with her would be the equivalent of playing baseball alongside Lou Gehrig or football with Jim Thorpe. She is one of those players that have proven that it is not about how many points you score. It is about being fundamentally sound and doing the little things right (which will take care of the bigger things).

As a side note, Breton-Lebreux is one of only two co-founders of the CWHL still competing. The other founder still remaining is Sami Jo Small, who stands between the pipes for the Toronto Furies. Of note, the other founders included Jennifer Botterill, Mandy Cronin, Allyson Fox, Kathleen Kauth and Kim McCullough.

Although her tenure as captaincy signified a remarkable chapter in Montreal hockey history, the most positive aspect is that Breton-Lebreux relinquished the captaincy on her own terms with grace and dignity. The opportunity to name her own successor is a gesture of respect bestowed upon her by the organization.

There are many players who state that they do not need a letter on their jersey to signify their leadership. Breton-Lebreux truly fits that description. Renowned throughout the league as a class individual who genuinely cares for her teammates, she quietly goes along with an ethereal serenity which is complemented by a remarkable wisdom for the game. For her contributions as Montreal’s captain during the nascent years of CWHL hockey, fans and players alike owe her a debt of gratitude.

Growth of women’s hockey leads to remarkable contributions from female photographers

As the sport of women’s hockey has grown by a quantum leap since the introduction of women’s hockey at the 1998 Nagano Winter games, one of the areas where women have started to break through is in the traditionally male dominated field of sports photography.

While the budding Canadian Women’s Hockey League has seen male photographers such as Dave Holland, Richard Scott, Pasquale Stalteri and Brandon Taylor contribute some remarkable shots; there is also a group of women that have helped to capture the grit and determination of the fearless, frozen females of the rink.

(Left to right) CJ Ireland, Lyne Landry, Jessica Moffatt and Mandi Duhamel represent a former era of Ottawa women's hockey captured by Krista Windsor

(Left to right) CJ Ireland, Lyne Landry, Jessica Moffatt and Mandi Duhamel represent a former era of Ottawa women’s hockey captured by Krista Windsor

Among them was Ottawa’s Krista Windsor. One of the first women to contribute superlative photos of the CWHL’s finest in action, her work helped to provide the now defunct Ottawa Lady Senators with a pictorial history of its contribution to sport in Canada’s capital region.

Monica Dupuis releases a wrist shot while Brampton's Bobbi-Jo Slusar tries to defend at Ottawa's Carleton Ice House. Photo by: Krista Windsor

Monica Dupuis releases a wrist shot while Brampton’s Bobbi-Jo Slusar tries to defend at Ottawa’s Carleton Ice House. Photo by: Krista Windsor

Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, the opportunity to contribute with the Ottawa Senators was a labor of love. Having also taken nature and wildlife shots, Windsor has a keen eye for detail.

Windsor’s shots are an invaluable archive which helped to commemorate an era of women’s hockey in Ottawa that was gone too soon. The efforts of Lady Senators such as Kendra Antony, Robyn Rittmaster, and Danika Smith are captured masterfully through the lens of Windsor. For a generation of women that worked towards establishing a new era of women’s hockey in Ottawa, Windsor’s superlative photos are the ones these hockey pioneers shall likely show their grandchildren one day.

Based out of Montreal, Jess Desjardins’ work behind the lens is helping to only enhance the status of the CWHL’s Montreal Stars as one of the world’s finest women’s hockey franchises. Adding a major league feel to the contests at Etienne-Desmarteau Arena, Jess Desjardins is establishing herself as one of the finest women’s hockey photographers.

Jess Desjardins at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jess-Desjardins-Film-Photo/117476751726656)

Jess Desjardins at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jess-Desjardins-Film-Photo/117476751726656)

Of note, she was also part of two remarkable hockey events in 2013; the Clarkson Cup in Markham, Ontario, known as the Stanley Cup of women’s hockey and the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that one of her photos was selected to be the cover of the Clarkson Cup souvenir program. To have an image selected for a magazine cover is certainly one of the finest compliments that a photographer can have.

Caroline Ouellette (left) and Dangerous Dominique Thibault were photographed by Desjardins. The image would make the cover of the 2013 Clarkson Cup program.

Caroline Ouellette (left) and Dangerous Dominique Thibault were photographed by Desjardins. The image would make the cover of the 2013 Clarkson Cup program.

Having grown up in Montreal, Desjardins is also a filmmaker contributing to videography with the Stars as well. With a past as an instructor and technician at Recording Arts Canada, she has also done freelance work as a sound recordist. Fluent in English, French and Spanish, she has certainly found her niche immortalizing the action which features the wondrous women that compete for the Stars.

Quickly emerging as the definitive photographer for hockey in New England, Melissa Wade captures more than just the excitement of women’s hockey. Seeing the frozen perimeter of the rink through her lens, she has also become a fixture at National Hockey League and American Hockey League contests.

Having covered both NCAA men’s and women’s competition, along with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, her presence adds a feeling of importance. For generations of collegiate hockey players, her images capture a moment in time in which the highly conditioned athletes gracing the ice have a feeling of indestructibility and an ambition to excel at the game with a pure love for the game.

Boston College captains Corinne Boyles (left) and Meagan Mangene celebrate a 5-1 home win over  the Maine Black Bears on October 6, 2013,  their Hockey East season opener at Kelley Rink. Photo by Melissa Wade

Boston College captains Corinne Boyles (left) and Meagan Mangene celebrate a 5-1 home win over the Maine Black Bears on October 6, 2013, their Hockey East season opener at Kelley Rink. Photo by Melissa Wade

Originally from Memphis, Wade calls Boston home. Her first exposure to photographing hockey came at the New Jersey Devils training camp several autumns ago. Motivated by the fact that early online searches resulted in less than a dozen or so photos of her favorite players, Wade began a website and fulfilled the need to accommodate other fans looking for photos also.

Employing a style that covers everyone on the ice and not just superstars, it has resulted in a terrific database which provides fans of all levels of hockey a unique view of the game. With the advent of social media, it has served as a remarkable tool for others to appreciate her devotion to the game.

With an archive of over 25,000 photos, Wade has created a visual diary, a time capsule that shall be treasured in the years to come. For fans of ECAC Hockey and Hockey East women’s hockey, she is the premier authority when it comes to capturing their glorious actions on ice.

Having revolutionized women’s hockey through the concept of a charitable pin-up calendar, the Vancouver Ice-O-Topes became an international sensation, while using proceeds to assist less fortunate teenagers in East Vancouver. Conceived by Topes member and fantastic photographer Rebecca Blissett, her unique vision and talent shone in the inaugural edition of the calendar.

Employed as a professional photographer, Blissett has had her work featured in Elle magazine, People, Spin, Metal Hammer, Peace, The Globe and Mail and the National Post. In addition, Vancouver-based entertainment magazine the Georgia Straight features many of her photos as she captures the zeitgeist of the Vancouver music scene.

Through the lens of Blissett, Ice-O-Topes player Tara Loseth recreates Paul Henderson’s goal against Russia in the Summit Series, one of the most iconic moments in hockey history. (Photo credit: Rebecca Blissett)

Through the lens of Blissett, Ice-O-Topes player Tara Loseth recreates Paul Henderson’s goal against Russia in the Summit Series, one of the most iconic moments in hockey history. (Photo credit: Rebecca Blissett)

Of note, her earliest experiences photographing hockey came while she sat in the penalty box shooting Junior A hockey. With a specialization in creative portraiture along with promotional shots for musicians and CD artwork, Blissett was the key to creating a set of tasteful yet powerful pin-up portraits that captured women’s hockey players in an unprecedented fashion.

Released in 2010, the first edition of the calendar sold out quickly, resulting in television appearances, including a popular talk show in Brazil. Other releases would follow annually up to 2013.

Creativity was a strong element in every edition of the Topes groundbreaking calendars. For the 2013 edition, classic hockey moments were reproduced with the Topes unique style. Throughout, Blissett has emerged as the creative genius bringing the worlds of glamour, athleticism and art into an amalgam of visual perfection.

Nathalie Dery’s comeback the feel good story of the CWHL preseason

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.

Photo by Pascal Ratthe

Photo by Pascal Ratthe

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.

Photo by Jess Desjardins

Photo by Jess Desjardins

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.

With her daughter at a Team Canada exhibition match in Boisbriand, Quebec (Image obtained from Twitter)

With her daughter at a Team Canada exhibition match in Boisbriand, Quebec (Image obtained from Twitter)

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.

Carly Dupont-Hill ready for breakout 2013-14 season

As one of the elite defenders in the CWHL, Carly Dupont-Hill has also established herself as a role model in the Montreal area. The Montreal Stars defensive stalwart has proudly followed in the proud tradition of other remarkable Stars like Liz Breton and Caroline Ouellette in giving back to the community.

Among one of the events she was involved with over the summer of 2013 was the Five Hole for Food Event in Montreal. Founded by Ryan Loat in Vancouver, it has grown into a coast-to-coast event. Charitable ball hockey games are played in an effort to obtain donations of non-perishable food items that can then be distributed to local food banks.

On July 9, Dupont-Hill was glad to lend her time for the cause at Place du Canada. With the beneficiary being Moisson Montreal, she proudly represented the Stars organization.

Participating in the July 2013 Five Hole for Food event in Montreal (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MontrealCwhl)

Participating in the July
2013 Five Hole for Food event in Montreal (Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MontrealCwhl)

While she is also a recreational soccer player during the summer months, she still found time to grace the ice. Mentoring the next generation of women’s hockey stars at the Fast and Furious Day for Girls Hockey, she was joined by 2013 CWHL Rookie of the Year, Ann-Sophie Bettez. Of note, both were teammates with the McGill Martlets at the university level. For the youngsters who had the opportunity to learn from them, it was an event that shall positively shape their growing careers.

Another summer event for Dupont-Hill included the Play It Forward Kids ball hockey tournament. Organized by the Greenfield Park Pentecostal Church and South Shore Community Church, with sponsorship by Mullins Sports, the goal is to help raise money in order to buy sports equipment for underprivileged children.

Her off-ice leadership will be crucial heading into the Stars 2013-14 campaign. With a roster decimated by the loss of nine Stars to the US and Canadian Centralization Camps (in anticipation for Sochi 2014), another run at the Clarkson Cup will require a strong presence on the part of the remaining veterans.

With former McGill teammate Cathy Chartrand (left) during team intros at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image by: Jess Desjardins)

With former McGill teammate Cathy Chartrand (left) during team intros at the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Image by: Jess Desjardins)

Although she is only in her third season, Dupont-Hill is one of the more experienced defenders on the Stars. She will be counted upon to remain a key contributor on special teams, where she led the team with 9 power play assists last season. Along with Cathy Chartrand, the CWHL scoring champion among defenders in 2013, the two are a dynamic duo on the blueline.

One of the top leaders last season in plus/minus ranking, Dupont-Hill can expect her ice time to increase with the absence of Stars defender Catherine Ward at Canada’s centralization. As a side note, Dupont-Hill has experienced her own glories as part of Team Canada. When the World Winter University Games adopted women’s hockey as a competitive sport in 2009, Hill proudly donned the Maple Leaf on her sweater. Part of the Canadian contingent that would win gold again in 2011, it remains one of the greatest accomplishments in her storied career.

Hill is also a Team Canada alumnae that grabbed gold at the 2009 Winter Universiade (Credit: Xinhua/Li Yong)

Hill is also a Team Canada alumnae that grabbed gold at the 2009 Winter Universiade (Credit: Xinhua/Li Yong)

While the Stars have replenished their roster with a solid 2013 CWHL Draft, one pick that will certainly benefit from Dupont-Hill’s expertise is Laurie Proulx-Duperre. As a 5’10” blueliner from Concordia University, the 24 year-old should definitely see her game improve.

Embodying the values of professionalism and dedication, Dupont-Hill will likely be a positive influence for many other rookies donning the Stars jersey this upcoming season. Considering the possibility of parity which many define said season, the contributions of players like Dupont-Hill could emerge as the difference between winning and losing.

Red Bull Crashed Ice World Champion Fannie Desforges selected by Montreal Stars

After making international sports headlines as the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice women’s champion, Fannie Desforges is extending her athletic career with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Being selected by the three-time Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars in the seventh round of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it is an extension of what has emerged as a remarkable sporting year for Desforges.

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

During the 2012-13 Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s hockey season, Desforges served as the captain of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees varsity team. Although it was her final season of eligibility at the CIS level, she had the opportunity to end her career in storied fashion.

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Desforges and her teammates would compete against the Czech Republic national women’s team in an exhibition match in Rockland, Ontario. With the city of Ottawa hosting the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it marked the first time that the Czech team was participating at the highest level of IIHF play.

Although the Czech Republic fought back from a two-goal deficit to prevail in the exhibition contest, it would be the final game for Desforges in a Gee-Gees uniform. Being featured in the advertisement for the game only enriched the experience for her.

Just a few weeks before that game, Desforges defended her title at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice championships. In the championship race, she would find herself competing against Gee Gees teammate (and Crashed Ice racer) Alicia Blomberg. Although Desforges would finish in third place, it was a bittersweet moment as one of her friends (and current Montreal Stars player) Dominique Thibault grabbed the world title.

Of note, the Montreal Stars have featured some of the most unique women in hockey. From reality TV stars (Jenny Lavigne and Thibault), softball players (Noemie Marin) and martial arts black belts (Carolyne Prevost), the Stars roster holds nothing short of intrigue. It is only fitting that the Stars would now boast two Red Bull Crashed Ice world champions on their roster.

Also joining Desforges among the 2013 CWHL Draft class is rival Jessica O’Grady. Having played for the crosstown Carleton Ravens, O’Grady was selected by the Alberta Hockey Club. The two were part of one of the most dramatic games in the school’s rivalry. A visceral contest between the Gee Gees and Ravens on January 20, 2013 would go to a shootout. While Desforges was one of the shooters for the Gee Gees, it was O’Grady who stole the show. She would emulate Jonathan Toews and score three shootout goals to seal the win for the Ravens.

Ironically, O’Grady and Desforges would be teammates in the summer of 2013. Joined by fellow Gee Gees Alicia Blomberg and alumnae Danika Smith and Erika Pouliot, this remarkable group of women would represent Canada at the World Ball Hockey Championships. Held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, there was tremendous expectation on the Canadian contingent.

Having lost the gold medal match at the 2011 Ball Hockey Worlds to host country Slovakia, golden redemption was on all of the Canadian player’s minds. A confident Desforges would lead Canada to a golden finish as she finished the tournament as leading scorer, complemented by being named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. In December 2012, the National Ball Hockey Association also recognized Desforges as one of the Top 30 Greatest Players in Canadian Women’s Ball Hockey history.

One of Canada’s most underrated female athletes, Desforges is a multi-talented performer with a team first approach. As the proud owner of a Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship and Ball Hockey gold, a Clarkson Cup would complete a well-deserved triple crown.

Montreal Stars make long-term investment in selection of Cornell legend Lauriane Rougeau

After suffering a heartbreaking loss at the 2013 Clarkson Cup finals, the Montreal Stars goal of becoming the first franchise to win three titles in a row was foiled by the ambitious Boston Blades. While looking to avenge that loss in the upcoming season with the acquisitions of stars such as Camille Dumais, Fannie Desforges and Casandra Dupuis, the Stars have also made a remarkable investment in their future.

Lauriane Rougeau, a star defender with the Cornell Big Red was selected fourth overall by the bleu, blanc et rouge. Before departing for Cornell and starring for Montreal’s famed Dawson College program (where she led the Blues to a league title in 2009), she was a teenaged phenom who had the opportunity to compete for the preceding Montreal Axion, part of the former National Women’s Hockey League.

Donning the commemorative Livestrong jerseys, Rougeau tries to score on Jessie Vetter (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Donning the commemorative Livestrong jerseys, Rougeau tries to score on Jessie Vetter (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

Part of Team Canada’s centralization camp, Rougeau hopes to be named to the final roster that shall compete for gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. As part of the Canadian contingent that competed at the 2012 and 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds (where Rougeau earned a gold and silver medal), she should be a mainstay on the Stars blueline for at least a decade.

Once Rougeau joins the Stars, it shall signify her second tour of duty with pro hockey in Montreal. This is an even more mature and more polished player. While at Cornell, Rougeau also had stints with the Canadian Under-22/Development and Senior national teams, respectively.

Rougeau (left) and Laura Fortino, the most decorate pair of collegiate defenders in NCAA history (Image by Simon Wheeler)

Rougeau (left) and Laura Fortino, the most decorate pair of collegiate defenders in NCAA history (Image by Simon Wheeler)

In 133 career games at Cornell, Rougeau accumulated 116 points and a program-best career plus/minus rating of +150. Every year with the Big Red, she was a First-Team All-ECAC selection, a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award and a Second-Team All-American. She would also gain three consecutive ECAC Best Defensive Defender awards.

Playing with Laura Fortino at Cornell, the dynamic duo comprised the most distinguished pair of defenders in NCAA history. Overall, Rougeau would earn 22 major awards and honors while Fortino grabbed 20. Fortino has also joined Rougeau at Canada’s centralization.

Although Montreal has enough star power in players such as Ann-Sophie Bettez, Emmanuelle Blais, Cathy Chartrand and Vinny Davidson to weather the storm of losing nine players to Centralization Camps, Rougeau was such a talented prospect that she was worth waiting an extra season for.

Her eventual presence shall help to bolster a blueline that already features the likes of the aforementioned Chartrand, team founder Lisa-Marie
Breton-Lebreux, Alyssa Cecere, Carly Dupont-Hill and current national teammate Catherine Ward. Although the game has changed quite a bit since her tenure in the NWHL, the veteran presence of the Stars defense will allow her the needed time to adjust and elevate an already remarkable game.