Longtime goalie Charline Labonte retires from Team Canada
34-year-old debuted in 2001, played 61 games in red and white
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Charline Labonte announced her retirement from the Canadian national hockey team Monday.
The Boisbriand, Que., goalie debuted for Canada in 2001 on an international tour against Sweden, the first of 61 games she would backstop for the red and white.
"I've had the chance to experience memorable moments with Hockey Canada," said Labonte. "The coaches, the staff, and my teammates led me to win four Olympic medals, but above that, they are all exceptional people who have had a great influence on my life. I feel privileged to have lived as many great moments with my best friends."
One of those great moments came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when Labonte posted a 0.33 goals against average and .976 save percentage to lead all goaltenders.
"I guess Turin was very special for me because I got to play in the round robin, the semifinal and the final game. So that's like my special gold medal," said Labonte.
In her international career, Labonte won 45 games for Canada, the second most all-time. She also had the second most shutouts with 16, and ranked second in games played.
"I want to thank Charline for her dedication to Canada's National Women's Team," said Tom Renney, CEO of Hockey Canada. "Her accomplishments in goal for Canada are tremendous; as a four-time Olympian she leaves behind an incredible legacy and we wish her success as she sets her focus on a new career."
Labonte also added two gold medals and six silver medals at the IIHF Championships with Canada, taking home Top Goaltender honours in 2009.
"I've had the pleasure of working with Charline from her debut with our national women's program to now; her ability to bring a high level of professionalism and passion each and every day is what has always set her apart," said Melody Davidson, general manager of national women's team programs for Hockey Canada. "She is a terrific teammate, but more importantly an incredible person and we wish her all of the best as she embarks on a new chapter in her life."
Now, Labonte will continue her association with hockey through coaching and sports pschology consultation.
"Last season there were a couple of times where I felt I wasn't sure if I wanted to do this anymore," Labonte said. "Practices at 9 p.m. or long road trips on the bus and being away from my family. Everything that didn't bother me before started to bother me a bit so that was kind of like a cue to say maybe it's time to go."
Labonte began taking classes at the Ecole des Metiers de la Restauration et du tourisme de Montreal, a highly regarded school for aspiring chefs.
With files from The Canadian Press