Les Canadiennes to Call Verdun Auditorium Home

Reigning Clarkson Cup Champions Set to Move in 2019 Following Major Renovations

  • Les Canadiennes de Montreal announced an agreement in principle to move to the Verdun Auditorium by 2019. Photo Tristan D’Amours

  • Verdun borough mayor Jean-François Parenteau. Photo Tristan D’Amours

Les Canadiennes have a new home but they will need to wait a while before they can move to it.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal, the city of Montreal and its borough of Verdun announced an agreement in principle to bring the four-time Clarkson Cup winners to the South-West region during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

“It is the start of another chapter in the rich history of the Verdun Auditorium that, since it’s construction in 1939, was an emblem for Verdun and Montreal,” said Verdun borough Mayor Jean-François Parenteau citing the history of junior hockey and the fact that the Montreal Canadiennes trained at the Auditorium.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you in our home, your home,” he added.

Due to major renovations of the Verdun Auditorium, Les Canadiennes will need to wait until 2019 to play Canadian Women’s Hockey League games in Verdun. For General Manager Meg Hewings, having this two-year cushion before heading to the Verdun Auditorium actually allows them to grow their fan base in order to make the move to a bigger venue.

“It’s an incredible facility in terms of size for us, it’s a 3,000 to 4,000 seat arena so we’re hoping to grow into that by the time it will open in 2019,” said Hewings. “To be able to grow into a facility and to work from the beginning as the renovation process is taking place is gonna be great for us.”

Having the team play in a building they can call home as opposed to moving from place to place makes the announcement a landmark for women’s hockey in Montreal.

“[…] if we’re going to be really frank, it’s hard to find resources and infrastructure and so this has been the biggest challenges in the start-up phases of building a pro league for women,” said Hewings. “[Our players] are incredible athletes that have given so much to the sport that are four-time Olympic athletes in some cases and deserve to have professional facilities and that’s what makes me excited today.”

Les Canadiennes General Manager Meg Hewings. Photo Tristan D’Amours

A Say In the Renovating the Auditorium

After having made an analysis of the Montreal market, Hewings and Les Canadiennes opted for Verdun for its accessibility and the community around the venue. Along with the move, the team will be contributing to the borough’s community by holding events and working with the youth.

The team will also have the opportunity to have a say in the renovation process of the Auditorium.

“Taking the tour, we’ve looked at the plans. They are set plan but from there we will be able to obviously outfit the locker room to suit our needs, the coaching rooms,” said Hewings. “Hopefully to have the basic facilities that one requires for having a team like a gym and so on.”

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, a known sports fan, is particularly happy of the move in terms of giving to women’s sports but also to give another life to the Verdun Auditorium.

“At the end of the day, it’s about providing the proper infrastructure so that they can truly live their passion and have all the tools they need to make things happen,” said Coderre. “What I love is that with this Auditorium is there were ghosts in the Montreal Forum and there are ghosts here too. This place has a soul.”

What About the Next Two Years?

Despite the agreement, Les Canadiennes still need to play the next two seasons. With the ice the team played most of their games on, Etienne Desmarteau Arena, also being in renovations, Hewings and her team needed a short term plan alongside their long term one.

The defending Clarkson Cup champions have turned to the eastern borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville to play for the 2017-18 CWHL season. The Michel-Normandin Arena inside of Complexe Sportif Claude Robillard will be where Les Canadiennes will train and play most of their games for the upcoming season. Hewings confirmed that the team is “looking at a two-year plan” to include the 2018-19 season as well.

Along with games in the north-east of Montreal, Les Canadiennes have announced that they will return to the Bell Centre to play Chinese expansion team Kunlun Red Stars on Nov 11. The team also plans on playing some games at the Complexe Sportif Bell in Brossard.

With the arrival of the Montreal Canadiens American Hockey League affiliate Laval Rocket playing in the newly built Place Bell, Hewings admitted to having talked about collaborating. Being the sister club of the NHL’s Canadiens, Les Canadiennes would like to look at collaborating more with its new family member.

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to have the opportunity to have a game out in Laval and to do doubleheaders there with [the Rocket],” said Hewings.

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