“I’ve been in women’s hockey for 40 years. I have never seen that. »

Danièle Sauvageau almost can’t believe it: the professionalism of the new women’s hockey league, “it’s serious”.

“I have never seen this level of management, and of the neighboring business,” said the general director of the Montreal team in an interview with La Presse, Wednesday morning, at the Verdun Auditorium.

Even Éric Houde, assistant coach of Kori Cheverie and former professional player, is amazed.

“I was impressed,” says the man who is working in women’s hockey for the first time. It’s really well organized. People complain about [the absence of] a logo and a name. But on the internal side, I find it very professional. »

The team returned from a five-day trip to Utica, where it played three preseason games. For Houde, this event demonstrated that the Professional Women’s Hockey League (LPHF) took its product seriously.

“From the outside, it may seem very crooked,” he agrees when we mention the ambient perception towards the project, particularly due to the tight deadlines.

“But, as a Quebecois, I found that it was on point. There were a lot of people from the league. […] Everyone is on the same wavelength. »

Our interview with Danièle Sauvageau takes place in a corridor high up in the enclosure. Behind, the players have been training on the ice for almost an hour and a half. With 20 days until the first game of the season, is the organization ready?

“I’d like to tell you that it’s October, but it’s December,” says Sauvageau. At the same time, if you had asked me in October, I would have told you that I was looking forward to December! »

“Things are progressing well, quickly,” she says. It has no choice but to be the case: it will kick off on January 2, just five months since the league’s infancy in August.

The sale of season tickets “is going well”, indicates the DG. Individual tickets will go on sale this Thursday, at 4 p.m. The home team’s first match in Montreal will be played on January 13, in Verdun. There is therefore less than a month left to maximize sales. Isn’t that a bit of a deadline?

“If you knew how it worked,” she replies. I had a ticketing course! »

She talks about “time engineering”, this complicated management of the schedules and travel of all the teams, combined with the imperatives of the international women’s hockey calendar.

“These people have all my respect. It’s not me who’s going to say: ‘My God, it’s long!’ I’m going to say: ‘But how do they do it?’ That’s my approach. »

She nevertheless welcomes the “sense of urgency” that inhabits the LPHF.

“Everyone was saying: You’re sick! Yes, but if we wait until next year, we will take our time, it will be fine in the spring…”

And the players will lose another year without playing.

“I believe in magic,” says Danièle Sauvageau.

Assistants to head coach Kori Cheverie, Éric Houde and Noémie Marin led training on Wednesday. This is because Cheverie, like Marie-Philip Poulin, Laura Stacey and Ann-Renée Desbiens, are currently on assignment with the Canadian team. This is also the case for Dominika Lásková and Tereza Vanišová, two Czechs from the Montreal team who have left to join their national team.

Our discussion with Houde takes place just after training on a bench in the Auditorium, in front of the empty mirror.

After the three preparatory matches, what is his observation?

“I don’t know if the season is going to go like this, but it was more intense and more physical than I expected. I still found the teams quite homogeneous. »

In the sense that the level is roughly the same across the league, because the teams are made up of “girls from national teams, American colleges, and somewhere in between.”

Yes, with just over two weeks until kick-off, “there are still adjustments to be made” in training. The full squad was revealed the day before, players are absent this week.

“Next week, when the team is in place, it will be about making sure everyone is on the same page and that we are ready. »

Besides, Éric Houde can’t wait for it to start. He looks around, delighted to see the recent renovations to the compound. “I played here before when I was young. It wasn’t beautiful like this before. »

“I’m happy for these girls,” he said. […] Even if it’s last minute, it’s gone better than people think. »