With a weekend that included a landmark game adding to the historic backdrop, Caroline Ouellette reached a new summit with her club team, Les Canadiennes de Montreal. In a superlative career that has included four Winter Games gold medals, the golden goal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey World Championships, and the distinction of being the first skater to gain entry into the unofficial Triple Gold Club for Women, Ouellette is a once-in-a-lifetime player whose Hall of Fame credentials make her most worthy of the moniker “living legend.”
Complementing such an amazing list of international career achievements, Ouellette has also provided a seemingly endless list of outstanding achievements at the professional level. Undoubtedly the greatest player in the history of the Montreal Stars/Canadiennes franchise, December 11, 2016 is a date that shall be forever etched in Montreal hockey lore, as Ouellette became the first player in the history of the franchise (and the CWHL) to reach the 300-point mark.
Entering the contest with 299 career points, Ouellette delivered on all accounts. Earning the assist along with Marie-Philip Poulin on a power-play goal scored in the first period by Ann-Sophie Bettez on Calgary Inferno goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, there were more heroics to come. Eclipsing the 300-point plateau in the same game, she would join forces with Julie Chu (who both won an NCAA Frozen Four as assistant coaches at Minnesota-Duluth in 2008) on a second period marker by Lauriane Rougeau, which tied the game at 2-apiece. Despite a string of three goals by Calgary placing the game out of reach, resulting in a 5-3 final, there was no sense of loss during an eventful weekend series against their rivals.
The previous day, Les Canadiennes hosted the Calgary Inferno at the Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s fabled Montreal Canadiens franchise, which saw Marie-Philip Poulin log the game’s only goal in a 1-0 final. Of note, it marked the first time that a CWHL game was hosted at the venue.
Although Ouellette’s two-point performance took place at their usual home venue, Le Centre Etienne-Desmarteau, one could argue that the moment held an even more profound meaning for Ouellette, as one of the rinks at the facility is named in her honor. A pair of historic connotations also added to a jubilant weekend. Of note, the Inferno (known by the sobriquet Team Alberta at the time) also played in the first CWHL game to be hosted at Air Canada Centre. In addition, this is also the CWHL’s 10th Anniversary season, placing said game and Ouellette’s achievement as a storied season highlight.
As the first half of the 2016-17 season resulted in several other proud accomplishments for Les Canadiennes, including Marie-Philip Poulin reaching the 150-point milestone, while Ann-Sophie Bettez attained the magical mark of 100 career games, Ouellette’s moment added to a remarkable momentum that sees a club ambitious to capture its fourth Clarkson Cup title. Taking into account that Les Canadiennes were the first to win three Clarkson Cups (when they were known as the Stars), to its legendary grip on the Angela James Bowl, the efforts of iconic superstars such as Ouellette have transformed the bleu, blanc et rouge into the CWHL’s signature franchise.
From a personal standpoint, the opportunity for Ouellette to achieve this milestone on home ice holds profound meaning. When Ouellette surpassed Jayna Hefford (who played alongside her in all four of her golden Winter Games) as the all-time leading scorer in CWHL history, the feat took place on the road in Brampton, Ontario. Taking into account that Ouellette logged the feat in her hometown of Montreal, it only adds to a significant emotional connection between player, city and supporters.
With Montreal hockey fans roaring in an appreciative outpouring of applause after Ouellette’s 300th point, it represented a symbolic achievement for Ouellette. As the milestone took place on NHL ice, a stage truly worthy of her world class skills, it proved to be the perfect ending to a memorable year. On December 31, 2015, Les Canadiennes took to the ice at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, for the first-ever outdoor game in professional women’s ice hockey. With the opportunity to grace NHL ice in December 2016, Ouellette’s presence in both events not only foreshadows the growing rise of women’s ice hockey as a major league sports, her achievements reflect all that is good about women’s ice hockey in Montreal and the province of Quebec, revered for what she represents while serving as an inspiration to a new generation of aspiring skaters.