photo: Hockey Canada
photo: Hockey Canada
photo: Elizabeth Etue

canada

Caroline Ouellette

Caroline Ouellette, Canada's co-captain is blogging for WINIH and her own site www.Carolineouellette.ca
Here is her account of the tough game vs USA at the 4 Nations tournament in Nov. 2011.

Friday November 11th, 2011 Beating US 3-1.

Coming off from a hard fought game against Finland, we knew that playing the USA within 24 hours would be demanding physically. But there is something about playing your greatest rival that makes you forget you are running low on energy. In my opinion that rivalry elevates the caliber of women’s hockey every year. And I am not saying Sweden and Finland are not better, they definitely are. But so are the young players joining team Canada and team USA each year. The speed, strength, skill level just keeps going up and up.

Our game against the U.S. was scheduled at 3:30pm. Our day started with a 9:30am breakfast. We then left for the rink for a dryland off-ice session. I have to say that I was feeling a bit tired this morning. We did some mobility work with our strength and conditioning coach Adam Douglas. Then an active warm-up with some core to finish. By then, I felt reenergized and better. I have enjoyed doing the pre-ice work with Adam and several girls chose to work with him before the games. It has helped me take care of my groin injury and make sure I was taking good care of my preparation. It also allows us to think about our game and our goals without having to focus on which exercises we want to do next. It is also a good time spent as a group where we can have fun together. Adam works at York University and is a strength coach there. After the warm-up we played a game of handball and I can say that the girls get very competitive! I am proud to say that my team came on top with an overtime win!

We went back to the hotel for a short period of time. Barely enough time to shower and nap for about 45 minutes before pre-game meal! Then we had a pre-game meeting and talked about our keys to success! We talked about playing physical, supporting the puck, communicating, doing the little things well and taking pride in that! In my opinion, the faster the game is, the more important communication is. Not only does it help the player who has the puck but it can also be intimidating to play against because a team that communicates has confidence and want the puck. We then watched an incredible motivational video put together by our video coach Andrew with images from past world championships and Olympic Games. I had goose bumps watching it! I wanted the game to start right there!

At the rink we usually have about 2 hours before the game for our pre-game ritual that consist of taping our sticks, talking strategy, getting treatments, dancing, changing into our warm-up clothes, playing soccer keep-up for some, and doing an off-ice warm-up. Then comes the 20 min on-ice warm-up and that is really when you find out how your legs are feeling. But the most interesting thing is that I have before felt great in warm-up and yet had a bad game and the opposite also happened. So I have learned that the trick is to not get caught into what happens at that time and avoid being over excited so I can manage my energy for the game. We return to the dressing room for the final words of wisdom from the coaches and then its GAME TIME☺

I played with Hayley Wickenheiser and Nathalie Spooner today and we started the game well putting lots of pressure on the Americans in their own zone. We might have taken a bit too literally the “be physical” aspect taking 3 penalties in the first period. But our penalty kill was great and coach Goyette had prepared us well to defend the dangerous American Power Play. There were no goals in the 1st period and we came back to the dressing room proud of our play. Charlie Labonté was solid in net playing great saves through traffic and stopping a breakaway from Kendall Coyne, one of the smallest yet fastest players in the game. I think that first period was good for our young players who gained confidence as the game went on and realized that they belonged on the team and were plenty good enough to face the Americans! We exchanged goals in the 2nd period with a nice shot from Jayna Hefford from the high slot that beat Jessie Vetter upstairs. Both teams had several good scoring chances. We gave up a shorthanded goal at the end of the second period on an unfortunate turnover where two of our players collided to create a turnover that resulted in a breakaway for Jocelyne Lamoureux. We were in the mix of changing lines. The Lamoureux twin made a breakaway move worth of ‘’TSN highlight of the night’’ and no goalie female or male would have stopped her in my opinion.

Between the periods, we talked about not letting that goal bring us down. We were exactly where we wanted to be… in a close game with the U.S. and we still had 20 minutes to go get the win. It was a very fast pace game with a lot of physical play. Brad Pascall, our Hockey Canada VP is at the tournament with us and he compared the game to an NHL playoff game saying that both team did not give the other any room and that the intensity, physical play and speed was incredible. I would say that every time we play the U.S. both teams play so fiercely every shift and every minute of the game. It is amazing to be part of that intensity! About halfway in the 3rd period, Hayley Wickenheiser beat Jessie Vetter with a nice shot on the rush to put us ahead 2-1. We had a great challenge with less than 5 minutes left where we had to kill another penalty and the girls did an incredible job blocking shots and not giving anything to the Americans. We played very well defensively after our goal and it was great to see the commitment from everyone to be the best we could be defensively to protect our lead. We were 5 on 6 for the last 90 seconds of the game and Agosta, Wakefield and Hefford made great plays that allowed us to have a faceoff in the neutral zone with less than 20 seconds to go. I was able to read a pass from the faceoff and intercepted the puck, made sure I crossed the red line before firing the puck in the empty net. We were proud of our team performance during that first game. We know real well that this game does not matter though and we want to first take care of Sweden tomorrow and hope to see the Americans again for a rematch in the final. That final game will probably have an unreached amount of intensity yet!

Two interesting facts: the game was Haley Irwin’s 50th game with the National team.
The U.S.- Canada matchup was a historic one, marking the 100th time since 1990 that the two women’s hockey rivals have faced off against each other. The win improves Canada’s record to 61-38-1 in 100 games vs U.S. since 1990. As Peter Jensen, our amazing sport psy said, ‘’be thankful for your greatest rivals. They bring the best out of you and they help showcase the finest our sport has to offer.’’ He said: ‘’ you do not want to dance with someone that does not know how to, to make yourself look good; you want to have a great partner so you can both elevate the overall performance. In end, Americans and Canadians have one common goal and that is to get our sport recognized and appreciated so that one day we can dream of having our own professional league.

We are barely halfway through our time in Sweden and I have had already 4 embarrassing moments. The first one is the worst. I went for on-ice warm-up without realizing that I had forgotten to put my Jill on. Sure enough it was in my hockey pants and fell onto the ice. It sure made my teammates laugh. I suggested that maybe I should put it on over my hockey pants for extra protection but dropped the idea and opted to not try to block any shots that game. Joking of course! Then when we arrived here in the city where is held the tournament, instead of writing Nykoping I reversed 2 letters the K and the P for NyPoKing and posted that on facebook and twitter! Seemed to make my Swedish friends laugh! Then during the first practice, I managed to lose my hair elastic about 10 minutes into the 90 minutes practice! I looked for it everywhere on the ice and within my own equipment but there was no trace of it. I practiced with my hair loose and that for sure made my teammates smile! But what’s wrong with that!? Cassie Campbell did it! The difference I guess is she looked good doing it! Of course my elastic fell on the floor in the lockeroom when I took my equipment off afterwards. Lastly I was having my groin rewrapped by our physio Carla between period 2 and 3 of our Finland game. And suddenly drops of sweats left my forehead to land exactly in her face! Not the most fun feeling that’s for sure for both of us! In the embarrassing category also comes my teammate Mélo Daoust whose heating pad almost caught on fire in her hotel room because she did not bring a converter for Europe. Rookie mistake! I guess… can be forgiven, shes only 19!

Day off today! Feeling good to get some rest! Last game of round robin tomorrow against Sweden! We want to keep getting better as a team! During our psy session today we took a moment of silence to remember the ones that have fought and still fight for Canada today. I am so proud to be Canadian! Lest we forget the ones that have dedicated their lives in Canadian armed forces. Today is also my late grandmother Anita’s birthday so I also have thoughts for her. She was an athlete and probably the reason I have some athletic abilities. She came before the time it was acceptable for a girl to do sports, yet she broke down barriers by insisting she would swim and by being great at it. She was a strong woman, no afraid of her opinions and I have always admire that in her. It was heartbreaking for my dad and our family to see her suffering from Alzheimer late in her life. I wish she could see the impact she had on me not only in my love for sports but also in desire to win, improve and battle every chance I get.


Caroline Ouellette was the Assistant Captain for Canada’s 2010 Olympic team. She also played and coached at University of Minnesota Duluth. Here is an update on her smart new web site Athletic Hub and her life in hockey for the 2011/12 season.

Elizabeth Etue: Tell me about Athletic Hub which you and Kim St. Pierre launched in October 2010.
Caroline Ouellette: We have about 300 athletes on the website so the response has been incredible since we have only started a few months ago. There is a need for the service in Canada and also in Europe which is our next target. It’s been difficult to market the website as much as we would like because we are in hockey season but despite that we are very happy with the turn out. www.Athletichub.com

EE: What are the long term plans?
CO: The next step is to translate everything in French. We have also asked former US college players or coaches to help us translate some documents into Finnish, Swedish and Russian. We will try to target other countries to hopefully help Europeans athletes

EE: How will the site make money down the road?
CO: We are planning on offering 2 types of profiles, A basic one that will remain free, and a gold one that will include the possibility to post, video, pictures and transcripts. The Golden profile will be $10 a month and athletes pay as they go with the possibility of cancelling anytime they wish. Our dream is to find sponsors so our profiles could remain free and that is another challenge to build a good business proposal plan so we can approach companies to sponsor us.

EE: Besides hockey what else are you doing?
CO: Athletic Hub requires quite some work to get known so we do a lot of school visits or speak to teams in different sports. I am also in the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Olympian ambassador program since October and I have really loved my experience with RBC. It is a great organization and I have learned skills that will help me in my professional career after hockey. I do public speaking on my Olympic experiences to RBC employees and their clients talking about settings goals, perseverance, having a vision, teamwork. It is an incredible opportunity to grow our game as I get to speak about our challenges and successes.

Finally I work with 2 teams where I teach practices, Kuper Academy and Cégep Édouard Montpetit. It has been great to work with those 2 very talented teams doing my favorite part of coaching, being on the ice with the athletes. I have also helped a girls minor hockey association in the West Island (in Montreal) with their training camp earlier this season. I would like to start a camp this summer for elite players 15 years old and up where we (Team Canada players) would also skate in. I am working on developing the plan right now. I love coaching but coaching made me realize that I love being a player even more and that coaches work long hours. The best life is really to be an athlete!

EE: You have always been interested in police work, is that still on the horizon?
CO: Yes it is still something I consider but I have also loved coaching at the university level. For now, I want to finish my playing career with hopefully participation at the 2014 Olympic Games and then I will consider the possibilities I will have at that time.

EE: What has this first draft year been like in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (3 teams in Ontario/1 in Montreal & 1 in Boston) CWHL with all the changes last summer?
CO: I think this is the best calibre we have ever had. The 5 teams are very competitive. I am glad to see Dani Rundqvist (Swedish player on the Burlington roster) in our league and I truly hope we can find a way to attract more Europeans players in the CWHL. I really have the vision of this league becoming our NHL. We need to grow the calibre of women’s hockey internationally and the best way of doing this is to all play together! We still unfortunately face a lot of challenges such as the difficulty to find reasonable ice time at night to practice. Most our players work full-time so it is challenging to travel as much as we do.

EE: What has the response been from Montreal fans?
CO: We have had the most fans this season because of the great work of our GM Megan Hewings and her staff Fiona Robinson and Hélène Lapointe who have worked very hard to market our games and reach out to the media. Recently we had a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Association and we played in front of 800 fans and raised almost $7,000! It has incredible. Many media came to the game and we received excellent media coverage for our league.

EE: How much do players pay in the CWHL this year?
CO: No fee to play although we are missing money to finish the season so I am not sure if it might change. In the past, we paid $1,000 each to play. On the road, we have to pay for food.

EE: What do you think the chances are that the CWHL will get to professional status with paid players in the new few years?
CO: In order to do that we would really need the help of the corporate world and specifically the NHL could be outstanding to help us market our league and gain credibility. I dream of an association between the NHL and the CWHL just like the NBA and the WNBA. Perhaps the NHL would not make money at first but I think there is a lot of potential for our league and a large fan base that loves hockey but cannot afford to go to NHL games but would appreciate discovering the women’s game. Still today so many fans tell us after the game that they had never seen a women’s hockey game live and they loved it and will come back!

EE: How does the future look for you re the national team? You are now 32. Is Sochi 2014 on your wish list?
CO: I am 31 ha-ha! Yes Sochi is on my target list. One year at a time. We will see. Right now I am healthy and I still love the game so much. I love to train and try to improve little things that can help me stay at the higher level. I really appreciate the opportunity to play for Canada. I realize that the young players are so good and that it will be a challenge for me to make it in 2014 but hopefully my experience can help me 

EE: If you could work at your ideal job what would it be?
CO: Professional hockey player! I would do anything for that life!

The Veteran and Rookie Dance

by Meg Hewings  |  October 2009

Despite her 10 years with the national team and relative youth (she’s only 30), veteran Caroline Ouellette admits she’s still wowed by the dazzling rookies vying to make Team Canada’s Olympic roster. And that is saying a lot given that she was an assistant coach with some players in the Under-18 National program in 2008/09. She also plays with the Quebecois sensation 17 year old Marie-Philip Poulin, in the Canadian Women’s Hockey league.

“My first Olympics I was really nervous – it was my first time, and everything was impressive,” says the veteran Ouellette, who has already played a decade with Team Canada, and is the 5th all-time scorer. “If I compare this try out to the last two Olympics, there used to be a difference between rookies and veterans. But today, the young players start with our under18 National program and are already really fit by the they reach the senior level,” says Ouellette, still sweaty after “an intense” 2-hour on-ice practice with Team Canada pool of 27 players in Calgary.

If urgency defined the early days of women’s hockey, Ouellette says there is a visible growth in self-assurance today – and it thrills, pushes and exhausts her.

“Mentally, one of the hardest parts [of these Olympic tryouts] is to compete with each other to make this team, because all the girls are so good now!”

Circa mid-90s Ouellette was herself Quebec’s teen prodigy, outmaneuvering the boys in minor hockey. At that time, even in the most hockey-crazed city on earth, no one imagined women’s hockey could be an Olympic sport. “I didn’t start working out until I was 20,” she remembers. “I would have given anything for someone to tell me to show up at 8 a.m. every morning to train at the arena! We didn’t have that back then, we were on our own. I’m glad to see that a lot of the young players today [like Poulin] take the opportunity to work out and practice - it’s why they are so fit and expert in puck control and 1-on-1 skills by the time they get to this level.”

Today, Ouellette has matured into an on-ice force with a unique ability to read the ice. A creative playmaker with natural instinct, she knows how to convert scoring opportunities into goals, especially when it matters. At 5’11”, 170 pounds, her rocket passes and deft scoring touch make her one of the most elegant players in the game. She also plays defense on Team Canada, leading the penalty kill and power play - which means another perspective and a responsibility to make things flow. “It’s different back there and you see the big picture in the game, and what’s developing. I think it made me a better forward.”

Ouellette credits her student-athlete life at University of Minnesota-Duluth (2002-05 UMD) for first nurturing her hockey smarts.

For Ouellette, a francophone Montrealer, moving to the USA was a bold life turn with huge benefits: a hockey scholarship and a chance to play full time college hockey at UMD. Ouellette also took advantage of the cross-border opportunity to learn English and thrived in her college experience, studying criminology and women’s studies. In a city crazy for college sports, she left an indelible imprint with a remarkable playing career, racking up 92 goals and 137 assists for 229 points in 97 games. The soft spoken Ouellette describes winning the 2003 National College Athletic Association title over Harvard, as one of her “fondest hockey memories.”

UMD  has been called the United Nations of women’s hockey. “I had teammates from all around the world, which has helped to expose me to different cultures and different relationships that I would not have encountered anywhere else. In my eyes, the diversity of our team is what made UMD so special and so unique.”

What came next was a surprise. In summer 2006 UMD head coach Shannon Miller  asked her to return as assistant coach with the Bulldogs the next season. Ouellette was flattered. After coaching Team Canada to silver in Nagano in 1998, Miller had led the Bulldogs to three NCAA title and four Frozen Four appearances during her previous eight years. “She’s one of the best coaches I’ve had and I learned a lot from working with her,” remembers Ouellette, “What amazed me was how she managed all the little crises and drama that come in college. She is great with people and finds the best in them.”

With her sly sense of humour and an ability to nurture confidence in others, she already had some of a good coaching instincts. “I always joke that being a hockey player is easy – I get to take a nap when I leave the arena. As a coach you work all day, morning to night,” says Ouellette laughing.

She also credits Team Canada stalwart and grand-dame of Quebecois hockey, France St-Louis  as a huge influence. “With France, I instantly loved everything she appeared to be. As a player, she was so skilled and yet worked so hard. When we actually met and played together, she amazed me,” recalled Ouellette. “She had strength of character, leadership, passion for the game, and a commitment to working out. She always made people around her feel confident and good.”

When St-Louis and Ouellette grew up, girls who stuck with hockey weren’t always encouraged. Ouellette says she was shy and introverted when she started playing women’s hockey, and it took mentors like St-Louis to draw her out and push her comfort zones. She learned still more when the two finally played together in Ouellette’s first international competition in 1999 – a career highlight, she recalls. “Even at 40 she was the fittest woman on the team!”

Hockey life is good. Ouellette finished a spectacular 08/09 season with the Montreal Stars in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, leading the 6-team league with 33 assists and  59 points and a 2.46 points-per-game average. Named the league’s first Most Valuable Player, she  led the Stars to their first Clarkson Cup. What’s more, Ouellette and rookie Marie-Philip Poulin electrified the league with their magnetic playmaking and tic-tac goals, foretelling what’s possible when the old and new guard get the opportunity to combine their forces. 

 
Ouellette was chosen Alternate Captain for 2010 Olympic team.