Émilie Lavoie: Playing a 200-foot game

How hockey All-Star Émilie Lavoie lends to the Stingers’ success

Émilie Lavoie goes up against a Carabin during game one of the RSEQ finals. Photo Yann Rifflard

Walking out of the entrance doors to the Ed Meagher Arena, Émilie Lavoie greets her interviewer by finishing off a granola bar as she presents a warm, welcoming smile. Off the ice, Lavoie is personable and willing to talk at length about her time on the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team.

It makes it hard to believe that this kind, five-foot-seven third-year forward is one of the most physically impactful players in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).

“She has the ability to do it all,” said head coach Julie Chu. “She’s a complete 200-foot player. She probably has one of the most natural skillsets of any of our players.”

In her first year as a Stinger, she had already made her presence felt in the team. She tallied eight goals and 16 points in a shortened 15-game 2021-22 season. Along with winning a National Championship, she was awarded both the RSEQ Rookie of the Year and Concordia Stingers women’s Rookie of the Year along with a spot on the U Sports All-Rookie team. 

Two years later, in the 2023-24 season, her role on the team has grown. 

“Her first year, ... she was an extremely talented player, but we had a really veteran group as well,” said Chu. “Now, Émilie is a very crucial piece to our success. She plays in every scenario… she’s someone that we rely on a lot.”

Lavoie plays on a commanding second line where she is often seen communicating and setting up plays between her linemates. She kills penalties and is frequently placed along the blue line as a defender on the power play.

Lavoie is a key contributor offensively as well. Through the 2023-24 regular season, she registered 15 goals—where she ranked eighth nationally—27 points and a +20 plus/minus in 24 regular season games. This stat line propelled Lavoie to a rightful spot on the RSEQ second All-Star team. 

“Obviously, it’s a big honour, but at the end of the day, if I don’t have my team behind me I don’t get this honour,” Lavoie said.

Playing a physical game often comes with a price. For Lavoie, this is through the high amount of penalty minutes she racks up. Lavoie was assessed for a team-leading 33 total penalty minutes this campaign.

“It’s something we’re working on with Émilie… There are good penalties to take, and then there are penalties that come out of frustration or that will hurt the team in the end,” said Chu. “We’re still working on that balance a bit. I think she grew a lot from her first year.”

According to Chu, the biggest difference in Lavoie’s composure is her dedication to controlling her emotions, “In her first year, when she would make a mistake, it would always be [internalized] towards herself. We’re helping her work on those mental skills to say, ‘Hey, it’s okay. Let’s reset, and refocus so that we can be great on the next shift.’” 

Lavoie added that attitude is a dire component of playing a disciplined game.

“Being physical is part of [the game], but you have to deal with it,” she said. “You will get into a battle on the boards, you know. You can be more physical, but you have to adjust. You have to use your physicality for you and not in taking bad penalties.” 

Understanding who Lavoie is and where she comes from shows how she earned this rightful success.

Lavoie was not always a tenacious hockey player. In fact, her first sport was the less combative figure skating.

According to Lavoie’s older sister Kathryn Lavoie, her younger sister was a hyperactive kid looking to try every sport. Lavoie’s dad played hockey, and her older sister was figure skating. Therefore, Lavoie committed to participating in both hockey and figure skating. 

By secondary school, Lavoie was forced to decide between the two sports. According to Kathryn, who competed as a figure skater herself, her younger sister was destined to be a hockey player. 

“She was funny when she was doing figure skating,” said the elder Lavoie. “The choreography, it was very funny to see because it was [less natural].”

Kathryn recalled a time specifically when she knew hockey was in her sister's best interest.

“We would have improv sessions. It was part of the competition. You could just sign up, you know the theme, the music started and you had to improvise. That was the funniest number I’ve seen [Émilie] do.” 

The routine consisted of Lavoie hilariously exaggerating her movements. “That’s when we thought, ‘Oh, maybe [figure skating] is not for her,’” said Kathryn.  

Her skating is a skill that is commendable to Chu, who said that it’s rare to find forwards who are as talented moving forward as they are backward.

Once Lavoie took her talents to the CEGEP level, she caught the attention of Chu. It was there that her future head coach grasped how physically gifted Lavoie was. 

The choice for Lavoie to join the Stingers roster was easy. The coaching staff’s resume was impressive, yet it was the program’s culture that enticed her the most.

“Being team-first is a big thing here,” said Lavoie when asked why she chose to attend Concordia. “We have two Olympians [as coaches] but we also have really good people surrounding them.” She added that Concordia’s athletic therapy program further enticed her to commit to the Stingers.

However, Lavoie’s end goal has more to do with who she is as a person, not just as a player. She models herself after those who have surrounded her in the dressing room throughout her time as a Stinger.

“We had a captain—Audrey Belzile—when I got here. She was the one that really stuck out to me,” said Lavoie. “She was really on task for everything: blocking shots on the ice, attitude-wise she was perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better captain.”

With aspirations to turn pro, her physical nature will help her with the jump to the professional level, given that the PWHL has seen an increase in contact compared to other women’s hockey leagues. 

“She’s now a really mature person. She’s committed to both hockey and school,” said Lavoie’s older sister. “She has goals and she’s dedicated. I think she’s doing everything she could to have success in life.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 11, published March 5, 2024.