Fifth-year forward named captain in final season with Stingers
During Devon Thompson’s first season on the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team in 2014-15, they beat the McGill Martlets for the first time in 44 regular-season games.
“That night, our team got together and [celebrated] because we won a regular-season game,” Thompson said. “Now it’s kind of changed, and we’re pissed off any time we lose a game like that.”
The Stingers finished the 2014-15 season with a 8-7-5 record, and a 6-12-2 record in the 2015-16 season. Fast forward a few years, Thompson is now in her fifth year with the Stingers, who won the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) championship in March.
“When I take a step back and look at it, it’s crazy how much we’ve grown,” Thompson said. “Being expected to win is great, and it is pressure, but [head coach Julie Chu] tells us, ‘Pressure is privilege.’”
This season, the players voted Thompson as co-captain alongside goalie Katherine Purchase, but since goalies can’t wear the “C” on their jerseys, Thompson has it.
“It was honourable to be [named captain],” Thompson said. “There are a lot of good leaders on and off the ice, so to get that recognition from my teammates was pretty special.”
Chu describes Thompson as the “mamma bear” of the team. “Devon is a truly kind person that cares about the people around her,” she said. “That’s what she does in her leadership, she builds those relationships, checks in on people and obviously does a great job on the ice.”
Purchase is also a fifth-year player on the team, so her and Thompson started their Stingers journey together.
“People think that, because she’s a goalie, she sticks to herself, but she’s always had a really big voice in the locker room,” Thompson said. “For me, she’s the one player I’ve played five years with, so we definitely have a special relationship.”
Last season, Thompson finished with a career-high of six goals and nine assists, good enough for sixth-most points on the team. She played on a line with Claudia Dubois and Sophie Gagnon, who had 20 and 17 points respectively. Along with forward Audrey Belzile, Gagnon and Dubois are the assistant captains this season.
“That group of girls, they’ve been stand-out players every year they’ve been here,” Thompson said. “But also it’s a testament to them-they don’t take anything for granted, they work hard, and they’re the first people on the ice, and last ones off.”
The last two captains of the women’s hockey team, Tracy-Ann Lavigne and Marie-Joëlle Allard, were both drafted by Les Canadiennes de Montréal in the professional Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Thompson said she learned about hard work from each of them, and that they never took a day off.
Thompson added that Lavigne and Allard proved you don’t just have to be a good player to be a good captain, but you need to be a good person outside the rink. “If I could be half the captain they were, I would be pretty happy,” Thompson said.
Part of being a captain on a varsity team is having so many new student-athletes on the roster. The Stingers have 12 rookies from Québec, Ontario, the United States, and the Netherlands, so the leadership group will have to make sure the new players integrate well into the team.
With players from all over the world, there isn’t just one language spoken in the dressing room. Thompson said some of the French-speaking players tend to be a bit more shy speaking English, but she tries to be a vocal leader so they feel more comfortable. “If you speak the language, you’re going to pick it up eventually,” the psychology student said.
Thompson grew up in Châteauguay, in the South Shore, and hockey wasn’t the first sport she played. She started playing football because her brothers played, and wanted to compete with them. “My parents never really gave that gender excuse. Whatever my brother did, I could do,” Thompson said. “My brother played football, so I played too.”
The captain started playing hockey at eight years old, but still wanted to beat her brother Theo at it. When asked whether or not she’s better than him now, Thompson was sure of herself: “Oh yeah, definitely,” she said with a laugh.
Thompson also had hockey stars to look up to growing up, such as Marie-Philip Poulin, Catherine Ward and Caroline Ouellette, one of the Stingers’s assistant coaches.
“She’s intense, but brings poise. You know what to expect and she wants you to work hard,” Thompson said, who was in awe when she was first coached by Ouellette. “She doesn’t let you take a rest or have excuses. If you want to have [anyone’s] mentality, you would want her mentality.”
The fifth-year forward isn’t too sure what she wants to do after her career with the Stingers is over, but said she enjoys coaching younger kids. “I’m just focused on this year and taking it all in, then worry about all that in April,” Thompson said.
Main photo by Hannah Ewen.