As women’s sports aspires to progress to greater heights, the lifeblood of its ambitions rests in its devoted volunteers, who work tirelessly with the goals of the organization in reaching unprecedented heights. In Montreal women’s hockey, very few volunteers can match the enthusiasm and devotion that Fiona Robinson brings to the game.
From her early roots in Northern Labrador, Canada, to competing at the university level in Cambridge, England, hockey has remained a constant in Robinson’s life. Her strong leadership skills definitely flourished in Cambridge as she worked tirelessly to organize games, coordinate transportation and procure equipment, establishing herself as the heartbeat of the team.
Since then, Robinson has laid down roots in Montreal, and the decision has proven to be of great benefit. Initially communicating with Montreal Stars co-founder and team captain Lisa Marie Breton-Lebreux in the autumn of 2010, a meeting would follow with general manager Meg Hewings, resulting in the beginning of a momentous hockey relationship.
In Robinson’s first two seasons with the Stars, the club made hockey history as the first to capture consecutive Clarkson Cup championships. Since then, the club has also appeared in the Clarkson Cup finals in 2013 and 2015. Complementing such a remarkable run was a sponsorship with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, which saw the team rebrand itself as Les Canadiennes. At the press conference that announced such a landmark event, Robinson was among the members of the club in attendance, a tremendous sign of respect.
“The evening at the Bell Centre announcing our partnership with le Canadiens de Montréal was another dream come true. I believe marked the beginning of a whole new era for the Montréal organization. When you talk about hockey in Montréal, you talk about the Habs.
With the partnership with the Canadiens, with our name and logo change, we are now formally part of that identity and that tradition. It is something that our organization worked towards for years and seeing Caroline Ouellette, in her new Canadiennes jersey, embrace Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux after the press conference saying “We did it,” it still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. I am super excited for this season, the collaboration with the Canadiens, and everything that it will mean for the team and for the sport.”
As the Stars/Canadiennes remains one of the strongest in women’s hockey, the efforts of volunteers such as Robinson have ensured that such status holds true off the ice. Over five seasons, she has witnessed the evolution of the club into one that has gained a strong foothold in the Montreal sporting conversation.
“When I joined the organization, I dreamed of a network of staff all working together, and that is exactly what we have now. We always need more help, we have far more projects in mind than we have personnel to carry them out.
Yet, I think that this expansion and diversification of our support team is the primary thing that allows us to continually strive to provide better conditions to our players, to increase public recognition and respect for them. Also to provide a fantastic game day experience to our fans, and to achieve our mission of being a positive force in our community particularly in the promotion of girls’ and women’s hockey, along with healthy strong female role models.”
Robinson’s journey with this remarkable hockey team has been nothing short of a labor of love. Volunteers represent purity about sport, one that embodies sportsmanship, dedication and the essence of teamwork. When such effort is reciprocated by a group of grateful and appreciative athletes, the result is one where the team transforms into a family.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie of the team, the staff, and the fans. One of our most loyal fans told me, at the end of the 2014-2015 season, that with our organization he did not really feel like a fan, rather he felt like he was part of the team. Our team of volunteers is like a big family. It is always a joy to come to the rink because I know that I will spend my time with friends who share my passion for something really worthwhile.
The players and coaching staff are also fantastic to work with. They are aware of how important volunteers are to this league and how hard everyone is working, and they make a point of letting us know how much they appreciate it, frequently. It would have been easy, as we grew from a support team of 3 to 50, for them to become distant or have less contact with the volunteers, but it really has not turned out that way.”
During her first five fantastic seasons with the club, Robinson has looked up to an exceptional pair of women whose hockey careers and contribution to women’s sports in Montreal are already legendary. Such women have not only helped to set the gold standard that the remainder of the club looks up to, it is one that has also been instilled among volunteers, maintaining a standard of excellence.
“I think that the pioneers like Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux and Caroline Ouellette, who have worked so hard alongside the volunteers for years to build the league set the example with their attitudes. The new players are never long to adopt the same respectful and appreciative approach to our volunteer staff.
Each of these players is a remarkable and intelligent woman, and I really enjoy those rare moments when I get to chat with them as individuals. It is always very interesting to hear their perspectives on things, and they invariably are interested in knowing more about us volunteers, who we are as people. I think that respect and thoughtfulness goes a long way to our sense of family as an organization.”
Taking into account Robinson’s body of work, her greatest quality may be her heart of gold. Having contributed to a golden era for women’s ice hockey in Montreal, she has helped carve a remarkable legacy which may transcend generations.
“I volunteer with Les Canadiennes de Montréal because I believe that we are having a positive impact on gender equity in elite sport, and in providing role models of strong women to all of society. Some of my favourite moments over the years have been seeing the positive impact of these fantastically available role models on young girls and women. Yet, the thing that keeps me going day-to-day is the feeling of family that I share with the other volunteers, the staff, and the players of the organization.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”