We could imagine that France St-Louis would closely monitor the activities of the new professional women’s hockey league (LPHF) and its Montreal club. For three weeks now, that’s exactly what she’s been doing, with passion and full of joy.
This pioneer of women’s hockey in Quebec doesn’t just watch her new favorite sports team in person, thanks to her season tickets. She watches games of other teams and also browses the LPHF website looking for information on certain players.
In short, she is totally immersed in it, and says she is dazzled and impressed by what she sees and by the public’s response.
“We’ve been waiting for this for so long, and we see that it’s a really professional league. Plus, the supporters are there. It’s an incredible party in the stands,” she describes, focusing particularly on the young girls she sees coming to life in the stands, but also on the many people she had lost sight of and with which she was able to reconnect with during the Montreal team’s local matches.
“It’s refreshing to see the atmosphere in the stands,” she added. People are happy, they have a smile on their faces. This is where we see that sport brings people together. And it seems to me that it feels good in these times, where there is always bad news. »
“I have always been passionate about the Montreal Canadiens team, but here, I am passionate about the Montreal team. I get chills just talking about it,” adds St-Louis.
The sensations that St-Louis experiences, former goalkeeper Kim St-Pierre also feels them.
“It’s a bit of a dream come true. As a former hockey player, it’s a league like this that we dreamed of,” noted St-Pierre.
“So, seeing it with my own eyes, it seems like I’m having a hard time getting over it because I’m so proud to see this league set up. I am so proud to see the players, coaches and fans, above all, who really answered the call,” she continued.
Officially launched on August 29, the LPHF held its inaugural game on New Year’s Day when New York visited Toronto at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.
Since then, the six clubs that make up the circuit have played 14 other matches, and the average attendance stands at 4,835 spectators, according to the figures published on the scoresheets.
The Montreal team, which played six games, half of which were at home, is doing rather well in terms of attendance.
The two matches she played at the Auditorium de Verdun – which has just over 3,000 seats – were sold out.
In addition, a visit to the Montreal team’s website reveals that the announcement is complete for the online purchase of individual tickets for the five other games scheduled in Verdun this season.
The Montreal team also played the first of four games at Place Bell in Laval last Tuesday, in front of a crowd of 6,334 fans who ignored the bad weather plaguing the region.
Thus, in three local matches, the Montreal team welcomed 12,811 spectators, or approximately 4,270 per match.
“Yes, there is the number, but there is the fact that it is at full capacity [à Verdun]. For me, the fact that it is full capacity is a very strong message. That there are 6,300 people on a stormy evening, on a Tuesday in Laval, that speaks loudly,” said Danièle Sauvageau, general director of the Montreal team.
Beyond this enthusiasm of the spectators, there is the level of play which, until now, has proven to be very high, often spectacular, and where the physical aspect is very present.
” It’s good. It’s much more physical than I anticipated. It’s pleasant to watch. The players have a lot of skills, a lot of talent,” noted Jared Davidson, a Laval Rocket forward who attended the Montreal team’s game in Laval with a few teammates.
The last people surprised by the quality of the game are Sauvageau, St-Louis and St-Pierre.
“It’s a nice surprise to see, yes, perhaps, so many spectators, but I knew that the product was truly incredible,” says St-Pierre.
“I couldn’t wait for someone to give them a chance, because they deserve it. They have been professional athletes for a long time, and we didn’t have this chance. To see him on the ice is truly exceptional,” she continued.
“What we see on the ice is exactly what we have been saying for years,” adds Sauvageau.
“I had the opportunity to work with the French national team, I was in the elite division, divisions 1A and 1B. There are extraordinary players around the world who do not play for a country that is dominant, that we never see, and that we will get to know through a league like that,” she underlined.
And three weeks after the start of the season, no one is talking about the absence of team logos or nicknames.
On the jerseys of the six teams there is only the name of the city, written diagonally.
“I find that it brings a feeling of belonging to the city where the team has the chance to play and train,” notes St-Pierre.
“What is most important is the spectacle we have, these are the players, that the matches are all presented on TV and that we can follow them like a real professional league, knowing, of course , that [le logo] It will come,” she summarized.
France St-Louis sees things the same way.
“For me, the important thing was to get started, to get the team on the ice and to see the enthusiasm. Then, it will be the other step. We have to let things evolve. Already, a lot has been done,” she concluded.