Cégep de Saint-Laurent Patriots |  The women's program has few players to save

Cégep de Saint-Laurent Patriots | The women’s program has few players to save

On paper, Saint-Laurent’s Patriotes du Cégep women’s hockey program is very close to being saved. With a dozen players who have already confirmed their intention to train next fall, only a few athletes are missing for the 2022-2023 season to take place.

Simon Olivier Lorange

Simon Olivier Lorange
Press

Actually, it is a bit more complex. Still, the odds of saving this team are better than they were a week ago.

The announced end of the program caused a stir in the small world of Quebec hockey. The explanations invoked by the school caused more incredulity than anything else.

After a particularly painful season on the ice, this draconian decision is essentially explained by the difficulties in recruiting players and filling vacancies behind the bench, in a context in which the women’s first division of the Réseau du sport sportif du Québec (RSEQ ) was, in any case, to reduce the number of teams from seven to six in 2023.

Various media outlets have also described difficult internal relationships within the Patriots themselves, including tensions between players and former coaching staff. The will expressed by the sports director Hugo Lamoureux to prioritize the hiring of a man as coach was also very badly received.

Many voices were raised against the waste represented by the end of an established and respected program, even more so as the Committee on the Future of Quebec Hockey has just released a report highlighting the importance of developing women’s hockey in the province.

Again last Friday, the establishment planned to put the key under the door. On Monday, things started to move, and on Wednesday management said it was hopeful the team would be saved.

One of the things that has changed in the meantime is the abandonment of plans to reduce the number of teams in Division 1.

Press was able to confirm with the office of the Minister of Education and Head of Sports and Recreation, Isabelle Charest, that we would maintain a seven-team league until further notice. Hockey Quebec and the RSEQ, which made the initial decision three years ago, agreed to respect the status quo.

new coach

In addition, Daniel Continelli, who was the head coach of the Patriots for 11 years in the early 2000s, offered CEGEP management to return to service. We welcome him with open arms.

With Danielle Malkassoff, the university’s director of student communications and services, Mr. Continelli met with a group of players and parents Tuesday night. According to M.I Malkassoff, 12 of them immediately confirmed that they were ready to rebuild the bridges and join the Patriots. Another five are still unsure and must confirm their intentions in the coming days.

As soon as we have 16 students, the program starts over.

Danielle Malkassoff, Director of Student Services and Communications at Cégep de Saint-Laurent

That’s the good news. However, nuances are necessary: ​​16 players is actually the minimum imposed by the RSEQ to play a match: 14 skaters and 2 goalkeepers. In an ideal world, it would therefore be a total of “18 to 20 girls” who would have to be convinced, underlines Daniel Continelli in an interview.

Not only do you have to find players of caliber for Division 1, a historically complex challenge for all teams on tour, but you also have to make sure to accommodate them if they come from outside of Montreal.

While we waited for answers from the undecided, we contacted other players. In the middle of May, we have no illusions, when the league teams are already full for the fall. “It is not done, confirms Mr. Continelli. He would say that 80% are confident that the program will reopen. But that might not happen. It is a real possibility. »

We are showing the same caution at RSEQ, where we are waiting for Cégep de Saint-Laurent to come up with a clear plan before deciding what to do next. A response is expected by the end of the week. However, if we were to present a complete list of players, it would not be difficult to include the Patriotes in the 2022-2023 schedule.

An evil for a good

Before things rushed into this file, the media had been summoned Wednesday to a speech by players and former Patriots players. Liberal MPs Christine St-Pierre, Enrico Ciccone and Marwah Rizqy were there to support them.

PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Enrico Ciccone

Advocate Megan Miron contacted Mr. Ciccone last week. The former NHL player joined forces with MI St-Pierre, representative of Acadie, where the Cégep is located, to contest the charges of Isabelle Charest and Danielle McCann, Minister of Higher Education.

At the press conference, we were obviously delighted with the potential protection of the program. But we do not hide that this event highlighted the gap that persists between men’s and women’s sports.

Before joining the national program, Caroline Ouellette played two seasons with the Patriotes in the late 1990s. She only has fond memories of her time at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, where she enjoyed a “real springboard” for her career.

PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Caroline Ouellette

For this reason, the now associate coach of the Concordia University Stingers considers it “unacceptable” that CEGEP, which has its own arena, has abandoned its women’s program so quickly, despite the fact that it has two men’s teams.

“At Concordia, yes, I want my athletes to improve, but my biggest mission is to help them gain self-confidence so that they can become leaders in society,” he continued. Whether they become coaches or officials, whether they work in the sport. »

Then, pointing to the fifteen students wearing Patriots jerseys: “That’s what these young girls will do if we give them a chance to play. »

Isabelle Leclaire, head coach of the University of Montreal Carabins and also a former Patriot, stressed that, despite the unfortunate decision of the cégep to cut off supplies to his team, this event “will highlight the issues that must persist”. .

PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Isabelle Leclaire

“I think the shortcomings have been exposed and we need to work to correct them,” he added, adding that the disparity in treatment between the men’s and women’s teams “was not unique to Saint-Laurent.”

He now hopes that the other colleges that have undertaken transfer proceedings with disappointed Patriotes hockey players will be open to allowing the players to return to their original team if they wish.

Forward Anaëlle Cordon is one of those who began to consider other options after the dismissal of the entire coaching staff at the end of last season.

She is ready to move on, but hopes that Cégep will learn from her “mistakes”.

“We always felt that we were left aside and that the D2 male was coming at us,” he lamented in an interview. The college level is the highest level of play for girls ages 17-21. Therefore, we expect to be treated as such. As players of the highest level. »

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