Claudia Dubois’s Journey to Nationals: Thrill, Tears and Pride

We Didn’t Bring Home Gold, But it Was a Trip I’ll Never Forget

  • “I decided to play the graduating players’ last game in a Stingers uniform for them, and leave my heart on the ice for the last time this season.”—Claudia Dubois before the bronze medal game. Photo Illustration Daren Zomerman/Elisa Barbier

LONDON—For the second time in two seasons, my team went to nationals.

Unlike last year, when we went as the seventh seed, we came in this year with a high seed after winning the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec championship. Our hopes for this tournament were sky-high. Not only were we ready to win it, we wanted to make our mark and be a team that people wouldn’t forget.

Here’s how it went down.

Parts of the following text were edited for clarity.

Tuesday:

After a long roady, leaving around 11:30 a.m. and getting there at 8 p.m., I’m pretty excited about the journey that is about to begin. First impression of the hotel: Amazing. What a classy hotel we’re going to live in for the next week. Signs of U Sports women’s hockey championship are everywhere, a warm welcome overall. After a quick team dinner, we finished the night in the hotel pool, playing volleyball with a couple of girls on the team and laughing a lot.

Wednesday:

Waking up after a good sleep, the hotel breakfast is amazing. We had a scout video of the opponents we’re going to play Friday and then we left for the rink for our first practice at the University of Western Ontario. Bleeding purple everywhere, I feel good about this place and what’s coming for the Stingers. The size of the ice is different and I’m not quite sure about the rebounds that the boards are giving us, but we’ll have two practices to get used to it before our first game.

“This team is our family and we spent so much time together and now it’s over and I am going to miss them so much.”—Claudia Dubois. Photo Illustration Daren Zomerman/Elisa Barbier

Our athletic therapists, general manager and coaches did an amazing job to put everything in place in our room to make sure we’re feeling like pros. Coming back from the rink, everyone is getting ready for our fancy banquet at night. Everyone is looking sharp, the dinner was excellent and Lidia Fillion represented our team well with her national rookie of the year award. She’s an amazing teammate, I’m so proud of her and what she accomplished this year and I can’t wait to see her in the following years. All the individual awards are given and the night is a success, but at the end of the day, I know what’s our main focus right now and it’s nothing about individual.

Thursday:

Today was kind of the same morning routine as yesterday. We had our breakfast and a little bit of free time before leaving for the rink for our second to last practice of the year. As girls like to do, I went shopping a little bit at the mall next to the hotel, what a good coincidence! Our second practice was pretty good. Good energy overall in the team and the atmosphere is perfect, this team is special and we can feel it every time we’re all together.

I watched the first two periods of the first game of this tournament. A good level of hockey is playing out there for sure, the best eight teams in the country are here! The level of stress about our first game tomorrow starts to come up a little bit, but I’m pretty confident overall and just excited to get the real things started. We had a team meeting at night and we watched a beautiful video made up by two girls on the team. This video had of lots of memories from the year, where we all started, where we are right now. It also included videos of the family of every girl on the team that were wishing us good luck, and everyone that is believing in us. A mix of tears and laughs put our emotions on high, but the video was just like our team: Powerful! A perfect way to end another beautiful day, to get ready for a huge game tomorrow.

Honestly, I just CAN’T WAIT to play.

Friday – Quarterfinals:

Waking up on a gameday is always so special; I am more than excited to play the first game at the national championship. We went for a team walk, and did a little stretch and foam rolling all together. We’re all so excited and we can’t wait for it to be 7 p.m! After nap time in the afternoon, it’s now time to travel to the rink and have some fun out there. The goosebumps when the coaches are talking in the room before a game are always present. The excitement is at its highest; it’s now time to show who we are and what we are capable of. And as a result, we proved in this game that Concordia is here for the big prize. We beat the St. Francis-Xavier X-Women 8-1. We’re up to the semifinal game against the number one ranked team in the country, and this is going to be a good challenge, but you know what? We are ready and prepared for that.

Saturday – Semifinals:

Same routine as yesterday, we play our second game of the tournament at 7 p.m. again today. We know that the University of Manitoba Bisons are a good team and it is going to be a hell of fight. But we also believe in ourselves and know that we can do it and get our ticket for the gold medal game on Sunday. The feeling is always good on a gameday and we are all on the same page, we feel like it’s our year. This group is so special. The feeling we have together is indescribable. Game time arrived and we are on the ice, ready to battle for our life.

This game was a tough battle. A hard game to play but these games are the reasons why we play hockey for so many years and put so much sacrifice and effort into it. We went in overtime and then shootouts, and we all know how this game ended. Manitoba’s goalie saved our last shooter and my heart just stopped. I couldn’t believe it, it was impossible we had the team to win everything, everyone was believing in us, and we lost. In the semifinal game. The pain inside me was the worst I ever had. I couldn’t believe all the trainings we had, all the practice hours we did, all the time we sacrificed to this game and to the objective of winning a gold medal was ended there. In the blink of an eye. This game was the most heartbreaking loss I had in my life.

“It’s hard for the people that never played at this level to understand the pain you can have after this kind of loss, but you feel like your dream just passed between your fingers. I went to bed like that, with this feeling of emptiness inside me.” — Claudia Dubois

I couldn’t contain my tears and I started bawling my eyes out. Actually, for the whole night I was inconsolable. It’s hard for the people that never played at this level to understand the pain you can have after this kind of loss, but you feel like your dream just passed between your fingers. I went to bed like that, with this feeling of emptiness inside me.

Sunday – Bronze Medal Game:

Waking up this morning was…special. My face still looks like I got punched by someone several times, I am sore from my last two games, but I realized something this morning. I had the worst heartbreaking game the night before and I thought my world was falling, but then I remembered the opportunity we still had. The opportunity to get a bronze medal at a national championship. The possibility to finish top-three in Canada among all those university teams. Yes, it wasn’t our objective for this year, but we still have another game to prove everyone who Concordia is. We had another chance to wear our jersey with pride, and to play for each other. I decided to dedicate this day to all our graduating players that put so much effort during their careers at Concordia to bump this program to where it is now. Our fifth-year players couldn’t even make the playoffs during their first few seasons but they’re here today, ready to battle for the third place in the country.

I decided to play the graduating players’ last game in a Stingers uniform for them, and leave my heart on the ice for the last time this season. So many teams were not even playing hockey anymore and were already on vacation and we still had this opportunity to go there and get a medal, but also get the respect from all the other teams and people that were watching us. We competed for our lives out there, with all the energy that was left in our tank. We won this bronze medal game 4-0 against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The feeling is definitely not the same as winning a gold medal, but so satisfactory. We took another step for our program, for our university, and for all the people behind us that we represent everyday when we wear this jersey. An emotional game for the seniors, but we won their last game and I couldn’t be more proud of them and this team. Sometimes you have ups and downs during a season and you can’t wait for the postseason break, but now that it’s over, I never want it to end. This team is our family and we spent so much time together and now it’s over and I am going to miss them so much.

We wear our bronze medal around our neck with so much pride. We left the rink as champions in our hearts because we not only won a medal this day, but we also won the respect of all teams across the country and we made memories that will last forever.

Monday:

Leaving this hotel and this place after a week there was so special. No more breakfast all together, no more pre-game dancing in our hotel rooms. I’ll never forget those moments all together. An amazing week spent with amazing people, we are coming back from the national championship proud of ourselves.

It is just the beginning for Concordia women’s hockey, and we’ll be back!!

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