Montreal

Women's hockey team at Montreal CEGEP saved after renowned program put on ice

Players on CEGEP de Saint-Laurent's women's hockey team are rejoicing after the team secured enough players to save the program, which was recently put on pause because of problems recruiting players.

CEGEP de Saint-Laurent team finds enough players to relaunch team next season

Players on CEGEP de Saint-Laurent's women's hockey team are rejoicing after the team secured enough players to save the program, which was recently put on pause because of problems recruiting players. (Facebook CEGEP Saint-Laurent/Sammy-Lee Photographie)

The past two weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for 19-year-old Mégan Miron, but she's riding a high now that her women's hockey team at CEGEP de Saint-Laurent has been saved. 

The official player count on the team's roster now stands at 18, the threshold for the resumption of the program.

"I'm happy I'm going to be back on the ice and that I don't have to cut my career," said Morin.

The elite hockey player, who's played three seasons with the Patriotes, believed her competitive career was over after her school announced its women's hockey program wouldn't be back on the ice for the foreseeable future because of problems recruiting players.

After a wave of backlash from current and former hockey players, as well as elected officials, the team got a glimmer of hope last week when CEGEP officials backtracked on the decision, but only if it could secure more players to line up the next season.

"It was a lot of up and down. They said they were probably going to shut it down, then they told us they're shutting it down, then it wasn't confirmed. There was a lot of hope ... a lot of emotion all over the place," said Miron, who had denounced the situation in a letter sent to two Liberal MNAs. 

Over the weekend, new head coach Daniel Continelli confirmed the Patriotes had managed to reach the minimum number of players to keep the game going. 

"Next step is to try to find one to two more players to improve the team," he said. 

Support 'gives us hope,' says player

Officials at the CEGEP cited issues recruiting players and coaches as the reason for terminating the team  — one of the oldest collegiate hockey programs for women in the province.

Five members of the coaching staff were either fired or quit after the last season, including head coach Alexandria D'Onoforio and assistant coach Léa McIntyre.

The news resulted in outrage from Quebec's hockey community, which mobilized to support the Patriotes players.

CBC confirmed with current players on the Patriotes' roster, as well as two other coaches, that the CEGEP's athletic director, Hugo Lamoureux, said he was looking specifically for a male to coach the women's team.

Accordingly, Daniel Continelli returned to work as head coach of the Patriotes to save the team. He's on familiar ground, having served in this capacity for 11 years in the early 2000s.

His return was celebrated by players. 

"He really loves the Pats; he told us it was his goal to come back one day and coach us," said Miron. "He wants the girls to be treated the same as the guys at the Pats, that we're on the same level."

Saint-Laurent's women's hockey program is one of the most respected in the province, having produced stars like Olympian Caroline Ouellette. (Submitted by Alexandria D'Onoforio)

Ariane Proulx, 19, has been playing hockey since she was four and has worked her way to the top. She was happy to hear that the storied program was reinstated, as she's expecting to join it next season.

"When you get to this point, you want to play at the highest level you can," she said. 

"I was really happy to hear that dozens of girls could continue playing at this level, and all the support we received ... gives us hope. It proves that women's hockey is still top of mind." 

The CEGEP de Saint-Laurent did not respond to a request for comment, but officials are expected to make an announcement about the reinstatement of the team in the coming days. 

On-ice training sessions are scheduled in the next few days for the new generation of Patriotes, with the week concluding with the team's participation in a spring tournament.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sabrina Jonas

Web reporter

Sabrina Jonas is a web reporter with CBC Montreal. She was previously based at CBC Toronto after graduating from Ryerson's School of Journalism. Sabrina has a particular interest in social justice issues and human interest stories. Drop her an email at sabrina.jonas@cbc.ca

with files from Radio-Canada and Shuyee Lee

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