The CWHL All Star Game was an historic event for women’s hockey and it was a great day for several members of the Montreal Stars who helped lead Team Red to a 3-2 win.
Charline Labonte was the captain of Team Red, and made the first five selections before the game went to a classic “pick-up hockey” style stick toss. She allowed one goal in her period of work, but all three goals were scored by her draft picks.
In what was a moment of perfection, one of the league’s co-creators Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux tipped in a shot to turn a 2-0 deficit to 2-1 in the first minute of the third period. Breton-Lebreux has won four Clarkson Cups with the Montreal Stars.
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Breton-Lebreux and Sami-Jo Small were the first picks of either team in the draft, an honour as all the players in the league know the work that they had to do to get the league to the point where they would play a game in the Air Canada Centre on National television.
While Small has been on the National team, Breton-Lebreux had been the captain of the Stars until last season, and has coached at Concordia University where she starred and won the CIS National Championship and countless other honours.
After Breton-Lebreux scored, Team Red tied the game at two when Jamie-Lee Rattray put a rebound past Canadian national team goaltender Genevieve Lacasse who plays for Boston in the CWHL.
Then, late in the third period, Rebecca Johnston – another Labonte choice – broke in on a breakaway and beat Lacasse to put the Red team up 3-2. Last year’s leading scorer Ann-Sophie Bettez got an assist on the goal.
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So, between Labonte’s selections, Breton-Lebreux’s goal and Bettez’s assist, it was also the All-Stars game as Montreal’s players shone bright on the biggest stage outside of the Olympics and world championships that women’s hockey has had. There are a lot of talented players in the CWHL that never get a chance with the National team, like Bettez and so many others.
These players starred in the CIS or NCAA and for whatever reason – size, opportunity or depth – are on the outside looking in. The depth of the women’s game is very strong and will get even stronger. Women’s hockey was always a “young person’s” game because the most opportunities to play at a high level were in university.
Now, with so many Olympic athletes in the CWHL and more graduating every year, the league has never-before-seen parity and skill throughout. The league is so much more than the National team members who you’ve heard of. And it is more than the 42 players who took part in yesterday’s all-star game.
If you have never watched women’s hockey before, try it. If you still don’t like it, fine. But I guarantee you, you will fall in love with the game like I did when I watched my first Concordia Stingers game almost 10 years ago.
The Stars have four more homestands that last for two or three games in the early part of 2015 starting with two games against the Brampton Thunder on January 3 and 4. The rest of their schedule is available here. The Stars play their home games at the Etienne Desmarteau Arena in Montreal’s East End.
For a closer look at the Stars, I recommend a great documentary by Jess Desjardins that you can watch for free here.