Standing in a small, hot interview room, one player entering at a time, the last person to enter was Montreal goaltender Charline Labonté. When she entered the room for her media availability after their 8-3 loss in the final, Labonté let out an audible "oof" as she saw the crowd awaiting her.
Let's be honest. The media presence at the Clarkson Cup was like none other these players have seen all season. During the regular season, there is maybe two or three reporters and very rarely are players in scrums. Let alone the over 20 people and four TV cameras waiting. Having to do it after the hardest loss of their season must have been unbearable but Labonté, Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin, Julie Chu and even the coaches Dany Brunet and Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux took their obligation like professionals.
As early as the pre-season Les Canadiennes veterans were telling me how they wanted to wash the bitter taste of the 2015 Clarkson Cup - an overtime loss to Boston - out of their mouths. Throughout their run to first place, it continued. After their semi-final run, and through the CWHL Awards, same thing. Then this loss happened and I couldn't help but think back to another game I had covered.
I covered the 2008 Grey Cup at Olympic Stadium. The Montreal Alouettes had home field advantage and were the favourites but ended up losing to the Calgary Stampeders. It was the Alouettes fourth straight Grey Cup loss. Veterans had to speak to the media. Bryan Chiu was in tears. Anthony Calvillo was close to them as well. Ben Cahoon and other veterans had that same look I saw last Sunday.
"This was supposed to be a storybook ending," Chiu told the media that day. After those interviews, I was convinced that the three cornerstones of the Alouettes - Calvillo, Chiu and Cahoon - would retire because of how hard they were taking the loss.
So when Caroline Ouellette told the media that this game was a "dream season with a nightmare ending" and at the end of the interview she said she wasn't sure if she would come back next season, it, again, brought me back.
But here's the funny thing about what happened to the Alouettes. No one retired. Everyone came back. And they won the Grey Cup the next season.
Chiu finally did get his storybook ending, retiring after the 2009 Grey Cup win. That's what great athletes do. The Alouettes, minus Chiu, repeated in 2010.
Here's the thing with losing championship games that most people forget when they look at teams like the Alouettes and the NFL's Buffalo Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls: You need to be really good to get there in the first place.
This Canadiennes team is so similar to those Alouettes. The Alouettes were 1-5 in Grey Cups after that 2008 loss at Olympic Stadium over a span of nine seasons. Les Canadiennes have lost three straight Clarkson Cup finals (after winning three of the first four) and haven't won a championship since 2012. In 2014, they lost in a shootout to the eventual champion Toronto Furies in the semi-final after dominating the regular season.
But you know they will be back. I walked out of that room thinking Ouellette would retire, but after thinking about it, I can see her coming back. I don't know if she will but I know she can still play at a very high level and I know that she wants to win the 2016 Clarkson Cup.
And I also know that sometimes defeat is the biggest motivator of all.