Caroline Ouellette’s long and successful career as a hockey player is not long. But it certainly does not stop her from cherishing dreams for the future of a sport, and has been one of Canada’s top stars for at least 15 years.
In a context to highlight the recent conquest of the Clarkson Cup by the Canadian women in the Canadian Hockey League final and International Women’s Day on Wednesday afternoon, Ouellette took the opportunity to state two great aspirations for Her sport: increased media visibility and professional status for the players.
In the first case, Ouellette sees progress. In December, the Canadians confronted the Calgary Inferno in front of a crowd of 6,000 spectators at the Bell Center. She also finds it by crossing young girls who know and recognize the players of the team.
Ouellette, however, wished the Clarkson Cup final, which the Canadian women won by 3-1 against Inferno last Sunday in Ottawa, is seen by his French-speaking compatriots. Only the Sportsnet network broadcast the game, live.
Ouellette said he had a pinch in his heart, especially since the victory allowed the Montreal team to savor a sweet revenge after an unequivocal defeat against the same formation a year ago.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re moving forward, but why can not we also introduce the Montreal women in French? We are proud to be francophones, we are proud to be Quebecers and we would have liked to be able to present this match, this Clarkson Cup final to our families, to our friends who are here in Quebec, “lamented Ouellette.
“It’s a kind of vicious circle,” she said. “We need the media to attract people, but we need people to make the media interested. It’s the same with sponsorships. ”
This visibility that Ouellette is looking for could also help Quebec raise the number of enrollments in the province, which is lagging behind its neighbor immediately to the west. “If we look at the numbers for women’s hockey in Quebec, we have just under 7,000 players across the province, while in Ontario there are almost 50,000 players.
“For girls to be interested in hockey, they need to see women who are active and successful in the sport. We are a living proof of all the benefits sport can bring to a woman’s life. ”
Ouellette’s other great dream is to see women’s hockey become a daily breadwinner for those who practice it. With the exception of players like Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau, two members of the national team, women players need a job to make ends meet.
Ouellette would like the Canadian Hockey League to evolve in a context similar to what prevails in basketball in the United States with the WNBA, where the players are professionals.
“We are treated like professionals by our coaching staff, our employees, our supporters. All the girls in front of you work full time. We train late at night, we play the weekend, we leave on Saturday morning at 8am, we often return at 1am on Sunday, the girls get up at 6am to work 40, 50, 60 hours a week. Imagine if you could practice full-time, practicing almost every day, how much better the caliber would be. For me, it has always been the ultimate dream and I hope to live long enough to see it. ”
Ouellette thinks that this dream can be realized. To do so, it will require investments that will ensure that the players will be paid, as well as a formal association with the National Hockey League. She said she had heard that discussions were taking place between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League.
“It would be so fantastic. For me it is a question of equality in society to be able to offer the same dream to little girls as to boys who are in primary school and who dream of being able to enter a professional league . Together, we can create it. The National League has the resources to create this opportunity for all the girls in the world. ”
While waiting for these dreams to materialize, Ouellette will begin a new phase of her career as an assistant coach at the World Championships at the end of the month in Plymouth, Michigan. However, a similar role for the 2018 Olympic Games has not yet been guaranteed.
As for her career as a player, Ouellette gives herself the summer to get a clear idea.