Only a few hours left and the Montreal LPHF team will play the first duel in its history, at TD Place in Ottawa. “We’re like kids at Christmas. We’ve waited so long for this moment,” says the captain, Marie-Philip Poulin, on the other end of the line.
Our interview with Poulin takes place on December 30, three days before this highly anticipated first meeting. The 32-year-old athlete also points out that it will be a sold-out event. “It’s going to be beautiful,” she blurts.
“Just seeing how much people are talking about it, how excited they are about this moment… It’s hard to put it into words, to be honest. For me, it’s going to be like the first time I played hockey. »
Poulin is not used to being the most talkative in interviews. On this day before New Year’s Day, we feel she is sincerely excited by everything she is currently experiencing. The fact that it is a brand new team also creates a different dynamic within the group.
“We have girls who come from the university network, others from the Czech Republic or the United States, from almost everywhere. To create this chemistry, to build this culture, it’s super exciting. »
The players have been preparing for several weeks for their season, which begins with three games abroad against the teams of Ottawa, Minnesota and New York. It will be a week full of emotions. And the team may experience a few trial and error sessions, taking the time to get to know each other. The opposite would be surprising.
“I think it’s going to be a process. It’s going to be about improving every day individually and collectively.
“The beauty of this league is that every team can win every game. It’s going to be really competitive. For us, it’s going to be about focusing on ourselves, moving forward. It’s easy to look at what each team is doing, but if we are ready collectively, that’s what will make the difference. »
This first week of play is not the only reason for Poulin’s happiness. The day before our interview, the Beauceville native learned of her appointment as the first captain in the history of the Montreal club.
It happened at the Bell Center, during the Cirque du Soleil show Crystal. The players were invited to attend for what was, ostensibly, a team-building activity. It was actually a surprise announcement.
“It was really cool to watch! All of a sudden, the main character, whose name is Crystal, came out wearing the Montreal jersey. From afar, we were like: nice, that’s our sweater! She turned around and I saw the C. All the girls had a big smile. It was truly unique. »
This choice is not a surprise. It stood to reason that the woman who is considered the best player in the world, and who has worn the title of captain wherever she has been, should be the leader of this new team. The main person concerned is faithful to her habit: when we talk to her about herself, she responds by talking about the team.
“For me, whether there’s a letter or not…Hockey, I’m going to say this many times, it’s such a team sport. But it warms the heart. »
The Quebecer is happy to be part of a club that includes girls “from all over the world.” As captain, she wants to represent both the past, that is to say all those who came before her with the Stars or the Montreal Canadiens, and the future, she says.
“It’s a great honor. I really hope to create a team, a culture that will stay forever and that it will ensure that those who graduate from university, the youngest, want to come and play in Montreal. »
Marie-Philip Poulin is recognized, among other things, for her work ethic. She leads above all by example, she says, but she has also learned, over the years, to “use [her] voice, to speak a little more, to be less shy”.
And then, she is not alone, she reminds us. She will be surrounded by her assistants Laura Stacey and Erin Ambrose, as well as Kristin O’Neill, who will carry the title abroad.
“They’re there for a reason,” Poulin said. They put the team first. On the ice, they do everything to win. But also off the ice, they bring the players together so that we go in the same direction. I think these three women fully deserve it. »
“I think a team has different voices and different goals,” notes Poulin. […] Having a group of leaders is what allows you to have the pulse of a team, to really know what is going on. »
But ultimately, she insists, “whether you have a letter or not, each person has such an important voice.”
These nominations were a bit like the last point at the end of a long preparation which led to the first match of this season.
“What do we wish for you in 2024? », we ask Poulin.
— Success, fun and enjoying it.
– A championship ?
– Effectively ! We want to start big, it’s going to be one day at a time. »
It starts this Tuesday, at 7 p.m.