Unfortunately familiar: Stinger’s women’s hockey team react to RSEQ postponement

With the postponement of the second-half of their season, the women’s hockey team find ways to stay prepared

With women’s hockey set to return this weekend, staying in mid-season during a long pause form is no small feat. File Caroline Marsh

Boisterous applause, the pounding of sticks wrapping against the boards, the cutting sound of the hard rubber puck clanging off the crossbar as a collected sigh of anguish echoes throughout the stands.

These are the poetics of hockey. It all vanished once again, as the Ed Meagher arena stands frigid, with the loudest noise coming from the ice-cooling unit in the middle of January, as the regular season takes an unwanted pause. 

The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec season has returned, but its continuation was up in the air for more than two months. The decision was for complete postponement of all games across the high school, collegiate, and university levels after Health and Services Minister Christian Dubé announced new health and safety measures on Dec. 20, 2021. Games were originally planned to return after Jan. 9, as indicated by President and Executive Director of the RSEQ Gustave Roel, yet the hiatus was extended through the start of February.

“We had, to a lot of extent, a normal fall[…] to go full schedule, and [we] didn’t have many hiccups along the way,” said head coach Julie Chu of the Concordia women’s hockey team as she recalled her experience with the early year cancellation. “Obviously that’s a setback, that’s tough. That’s a challenge on the mental side for players, coaches, and everyone involved.”

“It was very challenging for me the last few weeks,” said Stinger’s forward Stéphanie Lalancette. “Having to train, and having to practice in the little groups, waiting to get back to games[…] It's very frustrating, and there are things we can’t control. We were just hoping to have the chance to play games [again].” 

Lalancette is one of four players on the women’s hockey team who was granted a bonus year of eligibility by the league in the wake of the 2020-2021 season cancellation. During the recent absence of games, Lalancette focused on the reasons why she decided to return for a final year with the team: to have fun and enjoy her time spent playing the game of hockey.

“When you’re a first, second, or even a third year [player], you don’t realize the mental aspect, that it’s really going to end one day,” said Lalancette. 

In her fourth year Lalancette struggled with injuries, and with her fifth year completely wiped away, Lalancette understood that she had to make the most of her bonus year opportunity. 

“With the uncertainty of ‘will we have a second-half’, and the uncertainty of ‘when we do, when will it start’; our players and our staff did an incredible job staying as positive as possible,” said Chu. Players were put in an awkward situation of finding places to stay prepared, whether that was workouts over Zoom with gym closures, or finding outdoor rinks to practice. 

For student athletes, having a safe space to talk and vent frustration about the situation is important. The Stinger’s hockey staff and players emphasize the necessity of being open about the adversity. Lalancette remarks that moving from the small town of Lac Saint-Jean to Montreal away from her family was tough.

“We were like, ‘We need to take care of our mental health,’” said Lalancette. “If it’s to go with someone close in your team to just go for a walk on the weekend. It was something that we could do, and we really tried to get the most out of what we were able to do.” 

The good news is that games are back. The RSEQ has gone ahead and allowed play to commence once again, creating well-warranted excitement throughout the league. 

“We are excited. Once we saw the light at the end of the tunnel that we’d be able to play, I think all our focus is on that, the future and what we have in front of us,” said Chu.
The Stingers women’s basketball team took on the Laval Rouge et Or on Feb. 17. Both teams will play the Rouge et Or for the re-home opener on Feb. 19 with tip-off scheduled for 2 p.m. Men’s hockey continues on Feb. 22 with a match at Ottawa University, and the women’s team will restart their campaign on Feb. 19 as they face the Université de Montreal.