Emilie Bocchia Balances Job at Saputo and Canadiennes Playing Duty

Former Stinger Hopeful of Winning Silverware

Without pay from the CWHL, Emilie Bocchia needs to balance her hockey career with a job at Saputo. Courtesy Shanna Martin

When Emilie Bocchia returns to her desk at Saputo’s head offices in St. Laurent on Monday morning, she is exhausted.

Unlike the other 10,000 or so employees at the company, Bocchia does not get the weekend off. Instead, she spends it playing with Les Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Since the CWHL does not currently pay its players, Bocchia is forced to hold down a regular nine-to-five job on top of playing hockey to make ends meet.

“Obviously, it’s not the best reality that we have,” said Bocchia before a recent late-night practice at the Michel Normandin Arena, one of two scheduled every week. “One day, I hope we get paid a little something and in a few years, we can live off this salary.”

Bocchia spends her weekdays as the marketing coordinator for Saputo, a position she has held for the past four years. She works in collaboration with advertising agencies, handling the packaging of the company’s various food products, and helping design the company’s website, among other tasks.

Come the weekend, however, Bocchia is dedicated to Les Canadiennes. She plays in the back-to-back weekend contests against one of the other four teams that make up the league—the Boston Blades, Toronto Furies, Brampton Thunder and Calgary Inferno. Occasionally, Bocchia will also travel to Boston, Toronto, Brampton, or Calgary when the team is on the road.

The 26-year-old is currently in her fourth season with Les Canadiennes, having joined the team shortly after being drafted in the fifth round of the CWHL’s entry draft. Bocchia takes great pride in playing for her hometown team.

“I started my first year and I didn’t know if I would continue,” she said. “After four years, I am still here and enjoying it.”

Meg Hewings drafted Bocchia in 2013 and has been her general manager during her entire time in Montreal. She had only high praise for the player. “[Bocchia] is a total professional,” said Hewings. “She’s a team player. She is super funny and well-respected in the dressing room.”

Bocchia has been enamored with hockey from a young age. She vividly remembers playing street hockey with her brother and his friends on the road in front of her St. Leonard home. Although her initial experience on ice was as a figure skater, she would switch to hockey at the age of nine—after the careful prodding of her parents.

“One day, I just told my parents that I really want to play hockey,” she recalls. “They kind of laughed and weren’t too fond of the idea. I kept pushing and they finally gave me a chance to play.”

She started off playing on local boy’s teams before joining the ranks of a girl’s squad in her mid-teens. She played with the Dawson Blues women’s hockey team during her stint at the school between 2007 and 2009.

After receiving her diploma in commerce from the college, Bocchia made her way to Concordia University. She would earn a spot on the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey program, where she excelled for four seasons under the tutorship of longtime Stingers coach Les Lawton. She collected 45 points in a total of 80 games, earning Rookie of the Year honours in her inaugural season as well as the Most Valuable Player accolade for her team in 2013.

“Concordia was an awesome school for me,” said Bocchia. “I was able to develop with all the coaching staff we had. I learned a lot about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. My teammates and coaches pushed me a lot.”

Her personal on-ice exploits with the Stingers were marred by the dismal record of the club. The team recorded only 16 wins in 80 total games over her four seasons.

The same can’t be said for her present-day reality with Les Canadiennes. The team has been flying high, finishing atop the league standings in two of Bocchia’s first three seasons with the club.

“At Concordia, I had good performances,” she said. “I played well and was the star of the team, but we never won anything.”

Unlike her time at Concordia, Bocchia is used sporadically on the team’s fourth line. She has accumulated 12 total points in 79 total games in her CWHL career.

“I don’t mind being in the background,” she said. “I get to play with Olympians—I learn a lot from them. At least when I’m older, I can say that I got to play with great teammates.”

Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux was an assistant coach with the Concordia Stingers during Bocchia’s tenure with the team. She also played with Bocchia during her first two seasons with Les Canadiennes before becoming her coach once more, as an assistant on the staff of Canadiennes bench boss Dany Brunet.

She understands better than anyone the transition that Bocchia has had to adapt to. “Emilie has always been a great leader. She was leading her team in term of showing by example,” Breton-Lebreux said.

“She was a great player,” she added. “When you come into the professional leagues, it is a little bit harder to find your spot. You have to start at the bottom of the ladder again.”

Breton-Lebreux commends Bocchia for her work ethic and ability to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team.

“Emilie has had a great attitude,” she said. “She accepts the role that we give to her. Once you accept your role, you feel much better about it—she’s always positive and we like that about her.”

Les Canadiennes have not won a league championship since Bocchia joined the team. They have appeared in two Clarkson Cup finals—including last year against the Calgary Inferno—where the team found itself on the wrong side of a lopsided 8-3 score. Bocchia is hopeful she and her teammates will earn that much-coveted trophy this season.

“You move on from it,” she said. “Hopefully, this year we can get some revenge on [the Inferno]. That would be my dream to win this Cup. I really hope this year is our year.”

Bocchia also occasionally plays in an internal ice hockey league set up by Saputo. Teams play three-on-three on Friday nights at Hockey Etcetera in Mont-Royal. She is a highly coveted player, having collected 237 points in just 88 games.

“You feel like a professional when you go there,” she said. “It keeps me fit when I am off not playing with Les Canadiennes. I am more of a spare now, but when they call me, I have a hard time saying no.”

For the time being, Bocchia continues to put her Concordia Bachelor of Commerce to good use at Saputo, all the while continuing to play professional hockey in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She simply has no choice.

“One day, I might have to decide, if we get paid, between both my jobs,” she said. “For now, money is something that I need to live so I got to keep my job for a little while.”