Ann-Sophie Bettez feels like she is part of the history of her sport as the Professional Women’s Hockey League (LPHF) is only a few hours away from the launch of its inaugural season.
But if the league had been created a year later, there’s no guarantee the 36-year-old Montreal forward would be around to experience it, at least in a playing role.
“Over the past few years, I have wondered whether I should stop or continue playing,” Bettez said. “This is a question that has concerned me.
“This year I said to myself, ‘OK, I’m going to do one more year’.” So every year, I say to myself, ‘OK, one more year, one more year’, and then, I don’t know when the last one will arrive. »
The six-team LPHF – a new women’s league that benefits from deep-pocketed investors and an eight-year collective bargaining agreement – will begin action Monday afternoon when Toronto hosts New York at a sold-out Mattamy Athletic Center.
The Montreal team’s first game will take place Tuesday evening at Ottawa’s TD Place in front of what could be a record crowd for women’s professional hockey, with more than 7,800 tickets sold.
Faced with so many positive reactions from the public, Bettez is delighted not to have hung up her skates.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” declared the Quebecer.
“It feels like we are making history right now because hopefully this new league will be the next generation and then it will expand to new teams and other cities so that more girls can play. »
The five-foot-four, 132-pound forward, originally from Sept-Îles, has seen leagues come and go during her long career.
She played with McGill University before becoming a star player in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with the Stars and the Montreal Canadiennes from 2012 to 2019, when the league ceased operations.
She later played in Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association games and spent the past season as captain of the Montreal Force of the Premier Hockey Federation, which folded in June after the LPHF purchased the league.
Now Bettez will jump on the ice for another Montreal team, as the eldest member of the club which still does not have an official nickname.
Although she won’t wear a letter on her jersey, the tireless worker and talented playmaker was named a member of the team’s leadership group on Friday.
She intends to set an example with her incessant desire to improve, even at her age. A mentality that paid off when the late bloomer got her first chance with the Canadian national team at the age of 31.
“Someone asked me, ‘What do you need to improve? In fact, all aspects,” Bettez recounted.
“If you feel comfortable at a position and you think you’re the best or you can’t improve, I think you’re wrong.
“I always strive to improve every day. »
According to Bettez, keeping up with the younger players over the years is very similar to what she does in her second career, that of a financial planner.
“Everyone gets better, so you have to be able to keep going, and I feel like it’s a bit like inflation,” she compared.
“Every year the cost of living goes up, and your living wage has to keep up or adapt, otherwise you lag behind.
“I think I managed to do that and that’s one of the reasons why I’m still here, at 36 years old. »
Bettez, who was selected in the 14th round of the first-ever LPHF draft, hopes to help other players feel at home in Montreal, where she feels most comfortable.
“It’s very important for me to be able to help younger people, especially those who are not from Montreal,” she notes.
“It’s just about the level of maturity that someone older or more experienced can bring. I think I’m that type of person who wants everyone to be welcome. »