Émilie Lussier’s triumphant rookie season

Her debut season highlights family support, adaptability and dreams of going pro

Émilie Lussier gets her gold medal at the U Sports National Championship on March 14 in Saskatoon. Courtesy Liam Richards

Émilie Lussier, a forward with the Stingers women’s hockey team, has had a debut season that would impress absolutely anyone.

The Concordia athlete ended the regular season in a four-way tie for second place as U Sports top goalscorer with 18 goals, and is U Sports’ fifth highest points leader with 34. She was Concordia’s female Athlete of the Week four times over the season, and Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Athlete of the Week once. She was selected to the Réseau du RSEQ first team All-Star and All-Rookie team. She was also named to the U Sports All-Rookie team and the second All-Canadian team. She capped off her formidable season crowned both a provincial and national champion.

These accomplishments are dazzling, but Lussier remains humble. “It's always fun to get a mention like that, but at the end, everyone can be included, especially when you have a perfect season,” she said, referring to her team’s perfect 25-0 regular season.

Long before her start at Concordia, Lussier was taking the ice for the first time at four years old and began playing hockey competitively at six. Her childhood was surrounded by hockey, as both her mom and her older brother played. She grew up in arenas and set out to continue “the family trend,” according to her.

Family is a big part of Lussier’s journey. Her mom has never missed a match. She was there to witness every regular season game and the RSEQ tournament, where Lussier and the stingers became RSEQ champions.

Lussier said her mom is her biggest supporter, and it seems she always has been. When Lussier was younger, it was her mom who drove her to every practice and every match. They would chat, and her mom would give her feedback. Lussier admitted that, “the higher my level, the less [feedback] she gives me” but they still have fun together. 

As she was finishing her CEGEP diploma at John Abbott College, Lussier was scouted by many universities, but she ultimately chose Concordia. She said the major factor that swayed her choice was the coaching staff, referring to Olympians and head coaches Caroline Ouellette and Julie Chu. “It doesn't get any better than that,” she said.

Chu felt Lussier was a no-brainer when scouting players. “I think it was an easy scout to be able to see that Lussier was a top recruit coming out of Quebec or coming out of that graduating class, whether it's anywhere in North America. She was a tremendous player,” Chu said.

Lussier has loved every moment of being a Stinger. “It's a culture that's diverse, that's really positive, so it's really fun here. It's a really good environment. [The] Stingers are like a big family,” she said. As for learning from Olympians, she said that “they really show us their passion for hockey, and we learn a lot from them.”

Émilie Lussier battles against a Gee-Gees player. Photo Yann Rifflard

Before Concordia, her talents led her to Canada’s national women’s U18 team. On the national team, she represented Canada at the world championships in Slovakia. She called it a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and one of her proudest moments.  

Despite all the success, Lussier has faced her fair share of adversity. “There's no denying that throughout her career to date, she hasn't always had good times,” said Lussier’s mother, Marie-Josée Clément. 

One of those bad times came two days after the U18 World Championships finals in January 2020, when she had to get surgery on her knee cap after it got dislocated. She was told her recovery would be a 12-month-long process. Lussier said to hear that, “was really hard mentally.” 

It only got worse two months later when COVID-19 shut everything down. Her appointments were postponed, and it slowed down her recovery. 

Clément recalled her daughter’s reaction: “It was the end of the world for her. She couldn't play hockey anymore, her career was over,” she said. “It was a lot of mental work, a lot of helping her, and then just cheering her up, telling her that, ‘No, it's going to be okay, you just have to take your time, let it heal, do the exercises properly and everything will come back.’” 

With all the help from her family, Lussier was no longer thinking it was the end of her career. She tried to play her first season of college hockey despite the injury. “I was following the team everywhere because I was making an effort to come back during the season,” she said. “In the end, there were a few complications. I couldn't come back.” She may have missed her first college season, but she was able to come back strong. In her two seasons with the John Abbott Islanders, she tallied 100 points in 51 games.

With the Islanders, Lussier and her team were back-to-back RSEQ collegiate champions, much like the Stingers at the university level. Knowing that about the Stingers didn’t add much pressure. For her, a winning team makes it easier. “Being part of a team that's already winning is really easy for us." 

Chu said Lussier has put in all the work to help the team in its success. “Every day she works. There's not a moment where I don't think she works hard. Whether it's on the ice, off the ice, or in games, she has brought a full effort,” she said. 

As much as Lussier achieved this year, she said she wasn’t expecting any of it: “To be an incoming player, then to score so many points and win so many games, then to have an impact on the team, that's really fun.” 

”She always remained humble. She always remained respectful towards her teammates, then with the whole team, she always said that it was the team first,”  Clément added. 

Lussier’s university career is just getting started, but when it does end she hopes to be off to the big leagues. Having a chance to play professionally and in the Olympics is her goal. However, for now, she is a Stinger and it is always team first.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 12, published March 19, 2024.