In the nascent history of the Clarkson Cup, no two players have managed to make their mark the way that Caroline Ouellette and Julie Chu have. Part of the glorious roster with Les Canadiennes that managed to capture the 2017 Clarkson Cup, these two living legends became the first players to hoist the coveted Cup four times in a career.
While the hockey legacies of Ouellette and Chu were affirmed with a combined eight appearances in the Winter Games (Ouellette competing for Canada, while Chu was a mainstay with the United States), their accomplishments at the professional level not only signify a remarkable longevity, but add an amazing relevance to the importance of the Clarkson Cup.
Taking into account that both were rivals in the inaugural Cup finals in 2009, an historic showcase worthy of their world-class talents, with Ouellette donning the colors of the Montreal Stars, while Chu competed with the Minnesota Whitecaps, the longest running club team in the United States, it was unforeseen that the two would not only become teammates, but remain key contributors to the Cup’s lore nearly a decade later.
The victory in 2009 had historic ramifications far beyond the fact that it was the inaugural final. With the Cup win, Caroline Ouellette became the first forward to become part of the unofficial Triple Gold Club for Women. Although it is not recognized by the IIHF, the Triple Gold Club for Women spotlights women that have captured Winter Games gold, an IIHF World Championship, and the Cup win.
In addition to Ouellette, the 2009 win saw Kim St. Pierre become the first goaltender to gain entry into the Club. Teenage phenoms Marie-Philip Poulin and Lauriane Rougeau were also part of that historic 2009 team, eventually becoming future Club members. Both were part of the 2017 win, bringing their careers full circle. As a side note, the 2017 Clarkson Cup saw Charline Labonte of Les Canadiennes become the 18th woman to gain entry, becoming the fourth goaltender overall.
Despite the disappointment of not hoisting the Cup in 2009, it was an opportunity that would not be denied for Chu the following year. Skating with the Whitecaps once again, Chu would contribute towards a convincing victory against the Brampton Thunder. With the win, Chu carved a unique legacy in women’s hockey, as the Whitecaps became the first American team to win the Cup.
Joining Montreal in the summer of 2010, it allowed Chu the chance to become a hockey hero on both sides of the border. As Chu and Ouellette had worked on Shannon Miller’s coaching staff at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, capturing an NCAA Frozen Four title in 2008, their combined efforts resulted in another shared championship.
Serving as key leaders in Montreal’s road to the 2011 Clarkson Cup, defeating the expansion Toronto Furies, who were led by Jennifer Botterill, Chu’s former teammate with the Harvard Crimson, the win elevated Chu one step closer to hockey immortality.
Not only did Chu become the first player to win consecutive Cups, she became the first to do so with two different teams. Coincidentally, the 2017 win allowed one of Chu’s teammates to emulate her historic feat. Having skated with the Toronto Furies in their 2014 Cup victory, Jordanna Peroff became the first player to win two Cups with two different Canadian teams, achieving the historic feat in her second season with Montreal.
The Cup legacy took on an exciting luster in 2012 for more than just Ouellette and Chu. While Chu became the first player to appear in four Cup finals, and the first to win three in a row, the real story belonged to Montreal captain Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux.
Having also served as a captain at the university level, where she led the Concordia Stingers to a national championship, the 2012 win allowed Breton-Lebreux to become the first captain to win three Cups. Coincidentally, she was part of Montreal’s coaching staff during the 2016-17 season, becoming the first person to claim the Cup as both a player and coach.
Sadly, the path towards strengthening their dynasty status came to a devastating halt in 2013. Although Chu gained the unique distinction of having appeared in the first five Clarkson Cup finals, Montreal faced its toughest opponent ever, as the Boston Blades were spearheaded by the likes of Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Kelley Steadman. With rookie goaltender Genevieve Lacasse playing the greatest game of her young career, Ouellette and Chu were now on the opposite end of history, playing on the first Montreal team to have lost in a Cup final.
Subsequent losses in 2015 and 2016 only compounded the heartbreak, as Montreal descended into a downward spiral, the dynasty years distancing further. With Chu serving as a head coach for the Concordia Stingers, while Ouellette focused on her superlative Hockey Festival every holiday season, a potential loss in 2017 could have served as an emotional and a career crossroads.
Instead, a 3-1 win in the 2017 finals against the favored Calgary Inferno was a heroic validation, rejuvenating a love of the game while endearing themselves to a growing fan base, ecstatic over their historic achievement.
Appearing in her record eighth Cup final, Chu assisted on a pair of goals scored by Marie-Philip Poulin, her playmaking skills were brightly on display. Meanwhile, Ouellette achieved another unique record, becoming the only player to appear in all seven of Montreal’s appearances in the Cup final.
Four Cup wins each have done more than just immortalize a pair of unforgettable players. For a hockey mad city like Montreal, the efforts of Ouellette and Chu place them in the same admired category as so many of the legendary players that have skated for the NHL’s Canadiens. Helping to provide a well-deserved place for women in the pantheon of Montreal’s hockey heroes, these two titans are more than just ambassadors for their respective team. Both once-in-a-lifetime talents, they are a pair of role models among youngsters and teammates alike, having set a gold standard that future generations will aspire to emulate.