New home at Place Bell signals shift in women’s hockey

place bell
Marie-Philip Poulin (pictured) returns to the Canadiennes as captain after playing for the Olympic team last year. Photo by Matthew Coyte.

Les Canadiennes split back-to-back games against Calgary Inferno

With goals from Maude Gelinas and Sarah Lefort, Les Canadiennes de Montréal opened their season with a fast-paced 2-1 win against the Calgary Inferno on Oct. 13 at Place Bell.

place bell
Sarah Lefort gets ready for a faceoff. Les Canadiennes de Montréal opened the season in their new home at the Place Bell in Laval. Photo by Matthew Coyte.

Montreal played an offensive game with more fast-break chances than you could count. On the other end, the Inferno used their speed to work the offensive zone. Les Canadiennes just edged Calgary in shots, 20-21. Both goalies, Calgary’s Alex Rigsby, an American Olympic gold medalist, and Emerance Maschmeyer for Montreal, were tested often and were forced to bail out their teams. Rigsby’s highlight of the game was stopping Mélodie Daoust, the 2018 Olympic MVP, on three separate breakaway chances.

The Canadiennes played their first two games of the season at Place Bell. Both against the Inferno, this past weekend, they lost 3-1 on Sunday. The arena has been home to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL) since its inauguration in 2017. The 1,500 fans in attendance weren’t exactly the numbers the team was hoping for. This could also be partially attributed to the Laval Rocket playing right before and the Montreal Canadiens playing at the Bell Centre downtown at the same time.

The crowd was more than enthusiastic, however, and the loud cheers filled the empty seats. For captain Marie-Philip Poulin, the move to the 10,000-seat-capacity at Place Bell is a sign that the women’s game is continuing to take strides forward.

“Women’s hockey is growing. We have the chance to grow the size of our arenas as well,” said Poulin, who was held pointless. “Hopefully fans will come to watch us. That’s what we want. That’s what we hope for. That’s what we want to grow for the next generation. For us, seeing little girls in the stands, that’s why we play.”

After playing three games at the end of last season, without earning a point, forward Hilary Knight recorded her first point with Montreal, an assist. She said she wasn’t thinking too much about getting her first point in her new colours. “It doesn’t matter. As long as we win […] The expectation is to win,” Knight said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less with this team.”

Knight joked she had only ever seen road signs to Laval, but so far the team’s stay in the city and at the arena has been positive. “I love [Laval]. Place Bell is great,” Knight added. “The energy is great. Les Canadiennes always have a great crowd. We want more fans to come and embrace us as the city’s team.”

place bell
Les Canadiennes will also play at the Complexe sportif Bell and Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard this season. Photo by Matthew Coyte.

With the (partial) move to the 10,000 seat arena, Les Canadiennes are one of the first Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) teams to make the jump to a larger rink. Place Bell is officially the second-largest CWHL arena, after the Shenzhen Dayun Arena in China, which can seat a whopping 18,000 for the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays.

 

 

The Canadiennes are scheduled to play five more games at Place Bell this season, four at the Bell Sports Complex in the South Shore, and two at Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard in Ahuntsic-Cartierville.

Main photo by Matthew Coyte. 

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