Les Canadiennes Skate Into New Home at Laval’s Place Bell

Team to Kick Off Season With Double Header Featuring Laval Rocket

  • Les Canadiennes are moving into a state of the art facility ahead of the 2018-2019 season, where they will play a large chunk of their home games. Photo Caitlyn Yardley

Montreal’s Les Canadiennes have found themselves a new, more permanent home for the upcoming 2018-2019 season in the Laval Rockets’ home arena, Place Bell.

This announcement marks the beginning of a one-year partnership between Les Canadiennes and the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Canadiennes’ General Manager Meg Hewings couldn’t be happier about the move to Laval.

“It’s fun to partner and be on the same surface as the Rocket because we share a lot of the same values and direction in terms of where we’re trying to go as organizations,” said Hewings. “We’re trying to appeal to family friendly audiences and we want young girls and boys to be able to come and see the games.”

Hewings feels that the atmosphere offered by Place Bell is perfect for the type of experience they’re trying to offer to their fans, stating that while more intimate than a venue like the Bell Centre, it offers all of the prestige of a great arena.

“I think everybody is aware that we have a team that is really of superstar quality,” she said. “I think to be able to see them take to the ice and work together and put on a show, basically, in an amphitheatre like this is going to be very exciting for new fans of women’s hockey and also our longstanding fans.”

For these outstanding athletes to finally have access to high quality facilities that match their skills is a turning point for the team, who spent much of last season playing their home games at Complexe Claude-Robillard in Ahuntsic, and The Canadiens’ practice facility, Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

“I can tell you they’re pretty excited about the ice surface,” said Hewings, smiling. “I think they can almost see their own reflection out there. It’s incredible, impeccable ice.”

For the players, this means finally gaining recognition for the work they put in on and off the ice. Canadian olympian and veteran Canadiennes’ forward, Marie-Philip Poulin noted that having a permanent locker room, something the team hasn’t really experienced in the past, is a big plus especially given the number of players who hold down full-time day jobs.

“It’s super exciting, I think after a weekday when you know most of the girls work all day, having your equipment ready to go before is pretty exciting,” Poulin said. “I think we deserve this and it’s going in the right direction for young girls who might end up here in the future.”

While the collaboration is beneficial for both Les Canadiennes and the Laval Rocket and Place Bell, it is important to recognize what this means for women’s hockey and what it means to young girls who aspire to be where players like Poulin and Jillian Saulnier are today.

“As a team and as a league we just want to continue to grow and continue to show our level of play,” said Saulnier. She recalled being a little girl and watching teams play in different locations and thinking “wow, that’s really cool, I want to do that one day.”

“To be able to be on that ice and be those girls and know that there’s little girls in the stands aspiring to do just that is huge, and this partnership is a big part of that,” she continued.

Both Les Canadiennes and the Laval Rocket and Place Bell team are hoping that this partnership will help reach people who’ve never before taken an interest in women’s hockey, as well as the Laval community, in order to see new faces in the stands at Canadiennes games.

Mark Weightman, Vice-President of Development and Operations for Place Bell and the Laval Rocket, hopes that the Oct. 13 double header will incite Laval Rocket ticket holders to stay and watch.

The team will open their season in a double header along with the Laval Rocket. Photo Ireland Compton

“It’s a nice extra perk for the ticket holders of the Laval Rocket to be able to come and watch one game and then be able to stay and watch the second game,” he said. Last year’s average attendance at a Laval Rocket game was over 7000, if this double header garners the same attendance that’s a huge opportunity to expose people to what women’s hockey has to offer.

“If a fraction of those stay to watch the first period of the Canadiennes, this is an opportunity to showcase the Canadiennes to people who have maybe never thought of going to watch them before,” said Weightman.

Weightman, who had previously worked with Linköpings HC, a club in the Swedish Hockey League which has an adjacent women’s team in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League, had seen what could come of a men’s professional team that partnered with a women’s team and treated them well. He saw potential in Les Canadiennes, and so partnering with them was a no-brainer for him.

“They’re the best in the world, the girls on this team are some of the very best female hockey players in the world,” Weightman said. “It’s a great show and I think that everybody loves hockey and I think more people need to realize how good this team is.”

“What we hope to do as a facility is to give them the proper stage, the proper platform so that they can be appreciated at their true value,” he continued.

For now, the partnership remains a one-year deal but both parties know that this could turn out to be a long term collaboration.

“I think that we all want to see how this can work out and that it works for everyone. Our commitment right now on paper is short term but our vision is very long term,” said Weightman.

For this first year of the partnership, Les Canadiennes will play out six of their 14 scheduled home games at Place Bell. The remainder of the team’s home games will be split between their former home ice at Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard in Ahuntsic and the Canadiens’ practice facility, Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

Les Canadiennes will get the chance to break in their new home ice on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. as they face off against the Calgary Inferno in a double header with the Laval Rocket who are set to take on the Binghamton Devils just ahead of the Canadiennes’ home opener.

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