At noon in mid-March at the gleaming new Slush Puppie Centre, home of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, Eva Gascon jumped over the home team gate with a smile that couldn’t be hidden behind a hunter’s back and made history. becoming the third woman to compete in the QMJHL regular season competition.
Gascon, an 18-year-old from Terrebonne, Queensland, made headlines for several months. Although her time between pipes has been reduced over the past two seasons due to the pandemic, Gascon, who transferred to the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall, was nonetheless on the radar of the Olympians heading to training camp last September. when they sent her an invitation.
(This is possible because, unlike their male counterparts, female NCAA players can retain their eligibility by competing in CHL competition.) better and better. She was the last to be defeated and fought throughout the entire camp. She proved she could play with these guys and competed until the end.”
An injury to starting XI Remy Poirier opened the door for Gasconca in early March, and in the middle of the month she received word that she would get her opening match against Rimouski Oceanic on 19 March. “I told her to turn off her phone and have some fun,” Robitaille said.
As for Gascon, she took the news as calmly as possible, demonstrating a level of maturity and dedication that has served her well in this unique season. “It was great to get a call from Louis,” she said. “But I still just wanted to do the same, familiar things. After all, it was just another hockey game and I just wanted to focus. Obviously there was a lot of media attention and it was a little stressful, but I just wanted to focus on the game. I was glad I found out on Wednesday so I could spend two days getting ready.”
Of course, it wasn’t just another game. And fortunately for the young woman in the spotlight, her coach had a higher than usual working knowledge of what to expect in this situation. Robitaille spent four seasons with the Q as a player, all with the now defunct Montreal Rocket. When he was a rookie, one of his coaches was legendary international bench Danielle Sauvageot, the first female coach in league history. And the last woman to play in a QMJHL game ahead of Gascon, Charlene Labonte, made her final league start with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan against Robitaille’s Rocket. “I contacted Charlene before I told Eva she started because, frankly, I needed advice too,” Robitaille said. “She and Manon Reom were in a group chat with Eva to talk to her before the start. In addition, Daniele was present at the game.”
Labonte and Réom, who became the first woman to take part in a major youth match back in 1991, stressed to Gascon the need to stay calm, have fun and treat the day for what it is: a hockey game, plain and simple. And while Gascon exuded a calm demeanor in the crease, the game itself wasn’t exactly typical. Especially when her first official shot into the net came only eight minutes into the match – a powerplay chance that hit the net. “It was hard,” Gascon said. “I couldn’t feel the puck. It was difficult to stay focused after conceding a goal from the first kick, but I calmed down. After the first period, I felt more confident and less stressed.”
In the end, the Olympic, who fought for position in the last weeks of the regular season, scored a point, and Gascon saved 18 shots, losing in overtime 5: 4. Despite the score, none of the goals into the goal could be considered weak. “I felt she was very strong,” Robitaille said. “Once we took the lead, she made a couple of really good saves, one of which she scored with a glove and then jumped over her shoulder to make another save. We felt that she picked up the rhythm as the game went on.”
After the game, Gascon said it was “very stressful” but was pleased with her performance. “It was a big moment for me,” she said. “I didn’t win, but the guys were very good in front of me. I did my best despite the pressure that was put on me. I just want to play hockey, so it’s a little weird to get all the media attention, but I still think I did a great job.”