Les Canadiennes

A winning organization on and off the ice

Les Canadiennes are leaders. Four-time winners of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship Clarkson Cup, this Montreal professional female hockey team is synonymous with victory, and the roster is consistently filled with Olympians, national team members, and standout collegial stars. With so many achievements to be proud of on the ice, it is the team’s community involvement off the ice that is making an impact in the fight against an illness that will affect 1 in 8 Canadian women – breast cancer.

No one on the team knows this better than forward Caroline Ouellette and assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux. Caroline’s aunt Claire and Lisa-Marie’s mother Joanne were both diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a moment that the two of them would never forget. “My aunt was diagnosed before I had to leave Montreal and spend the next 8 months in Calgary as part of Team Canada’s Olympic Training Program,” Caroline explains. “It was very hard to be away from her and my family, but they told me not to worry and to stay focused on my dream of winning a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.”

Enchantée Gala, Les Canadiennes

Breast Cancer survivor Tante Claire with her niece and Team Captain Caroline Ouellette

Lisa-Marie echoes this same sentiment. “When my mother was diagnosed, I was living in Montreal and couldn’t be with her on a day-to-day basis,” Lisa-Marie says. “Even though I wasn’t there physically, I stayed very positive and didn’t let my fear take over.” Thankfully, both Claire and Joanne beat breast cancer, continue to be in remission, and are followed regularly by their respective physicians. The experience brought Caroline and Lisa-Marie, already good friends, even closer together. “Joanne helped my aunt Claire through her cancer journey, and I am very grateful that she had such a tremendous support system,” Caroline states.

The hockey community is a close-knit family and to support their fellow teammate and coach, Les Canadiennes organize an annual fundraiser called Pink in the Rink, with funds going directly to the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Breast Clinic’s Wellness Program. Each year, the team dedicates one game in their regular season to this initiative. “As hockey players, we have a responsibility to inspire and give back to our community,” Caroline says. “These initiatives are small ways for Lisa-Marie and me to show our family members how much we admire and love them, and also do something as a team to recognize all of the women that have battled breast cancer.”

Enchantée Gala, Les Canadiennes

Breast Cancer survivor Joanne Breton with her daughter Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux

Claire and Joanne attend Les Canadiennes games regularly and for Caroline and Lisa-Marie, sharing in their family members’ respective journeys has given them each a new perspective on life. “My mom and I were already close but this experience brought us even closer together,” Lisa-Marie explains. “It has taught me to always live in the present and create as many moments as I can with her.” “My aunt’s illness was an important reminder of how important family is and how thankful I am for everything they did for me growing up,” Caroline states. “Claire and my uncle Jean are like parents to me and it brings me such joy to have them in my life.”

Keeping with their tradition of community involvement, this year, Les Canadiennes are also lending their support to the MUHC Foundation’s Enchantée event on October 12 at Le Mount Stephen, which will benefit the Breast Clinic’s Wellness Program. The program provides prevention, treatment, psychological and rehabilitation services to the 15,000 patients per year who visit the MUHC’s Breast Clinic. The clinic itself is a referral centre for women across Quebec, and physicians offer comprehensive care in a single location and hospital visit including: examination, testing and diagnosis. It is also staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, technologists, radiologists and breast surgeons, and championed by a team of volunteers, many of whom are breast cancer survivors.

Enchantée co-chairs Cynthia Price Verreault, JoAnne Kelly Rudy, and Anna Capobianco-Skipworth are thrilled that the community is rallying behind this important cause. “Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Quebec, and too often, someone we know and love is affected by this disease,” explains Cynthia. “The funds raised from Enchantée will help the MUHC’s Breast Clinic continue to provide exceptional care and support to its patients, and we are very excited that Les Canadiennes will be joining us!” she says.

The players and coaching staff of Les Canadiennes are the embodiment of the discipline, perseverance and teamwork that it takes to gain success both on and off the ice. “The beauty of team sports is being able to go through a common goal together. In the face of illness, it is the most powerful thing,” Caroline says.

The MUHC Foundation’s Enchantée fundraiser will be held on October 12, 2017 at Le Mount Stephen in support of the MUHC Breast Clinic’s Wellness Program.  Tickets cost $200 and can be purchased online at www.muhcfoundation.com/enchantee

To learn more about Les Canadiennes and their upcoming season, please visit www.lescanadiennes.com