It’s not easy for hockey families to spend New Year’s Day with their loved ones. Except for some of the Perreaults, this year, who were treated to a nice combination of circumstances.

We specify “part of the Perreaults”, because with four children in hockey, Yanic Perreault (himself a development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks) and July Bergeron will rarely be able to be surrounded by the quartet on the evening of the 31st.

But this year, the parents were in Gothenburg during the holidays, for two reasons. Gabriel, the youngest, wore the colors of the United States at the Junior World Championship, while Liliane had just come to an agreement with the Frölunda club, which plays… in Gothenburg!

So, New Year’s Day? “I had dinner at a restaurant with my parents, we spent New Years together. I was pretty tired! admits Liliane Perreault, in a telephone interview with La Presse. It wasn’t like usual, but it was fun. I’m starting the new year in a new place. I was able to see my brother, my family. I was happy to see Gabe, we see each other less now that he’s at university. »

Liliane Perreault signed a contract to finish the season with Frölunda, after four seasons at Mercyhurst University in the NCAA. Ignored in the draft for the brand new Professional Women’s Hockey League (LPHF), she then got a tryout with Ottawa, but was not selected.

“I was one of the youngest,” emphasizes the 23-year-old. But it was a great experience, I met a lot of people. My plan is to continue to develop. I know I am capable of playing in this league. My goal will be to come back one day. But it’s hard because there are six teams and a lot of players. »

Perreault’s exile is yet another reminder of the changing face of the women’s professional hockey market.

Dominique DiDia knows something about this. Agent at CAA – Pat Brisson’s firm – she represents Perreault and helped her find work in Sweden. But she herself knew the world before, as a player at Trinity College from 2008 to 2012. At a time when if she was not one of the handful of players selected for the American national team, opportunities were rare . “I wish I had those options,” she admits.

DiDia, however, recalls a reality often forgotten in the enthusiasm for the creation of a new league. This is because the LPHF somehow replaces two leagues: the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). The latter was not a league strictly speaking, but around a hundred players still played there.

With a minimum salary of $35,000 and housing allowances, the new league, however, intends to offer players the opportunity to make a living from their sport, which was not the case for all before. In other words, better conditions, but for fewer players.

“We went from ten to six teams,” she recalls. For her clients Brianne Jenner, Blayre Turnbull and Aerin Frankel, this wasn’t necessarily an issue, since they were among the 18 free agents hired even before the draft.

But her job was more complicated when it came time to place less experienced players like Perreault. And it won’t be any easier next season.

“A good group of players is coming from the NCAA,” says DiDia. Also, players from the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL) will want to come to the LPHF. The LPHF is seen as the best league in the world, because the Canadians and Americans are considered the best in the world, and the presence in the LPHF of players from the national teams of these two countries has solidified this status as the best league. »

Perreault will be eligible again for the 2024 LPHF Draft. Until then, she will try to make a good impression on Frölunda.

When I spoke to him, it was all new and a bit chaotic. She was living in a hotel, had not yet played any matches, and the facilities of her team, which plays at Frölundaborg, were monopolized by the World Juniors. On the day of the interview, the team had to practice in another arena because “they change the logos on the ice.”

“I’m playing Saturday and Sunday, my parents are going to stay to watch my two games and help me get settled. It’s fun that they’re here, they can drive me to my training. »

She considers herself in good hands. “The caliber is really strong. Development is good. The training spaces are professional. Frölunda is a successful organization,” she recalls. The women’s program is very recent, founded in 2022, but the men’s team has five championships to its credit, including four since 2003. As for salary conditions, she remains evasive, but assures that she will not have to occupy another job.

Either way, just having options in the pros is a victory in itself.

“When I was in college, there weren’t as many options. Guys don’t have to think about it. Us girls were thinking about it! Many girls had to stop after university. But I knew there was competitive hockey in Europe. »

She will try to use it as a springboard to come back and play closer to home.