Charline Labonté is, fittingly, going out a champion.
She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time World Champion, three-time U SPORTS National Champion, and this past March she finally won her elusive first Clarkson Cup.
The 3-1 win against the Calgary Inferno at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa would be the last game she played, as the 34-year-old announced her retirement this morning.
On to the next chapter.. pic.twitter.com/Ua1ZJeo3K3— Charline Labonte (@Labonte32) September 25, 2017
“Although I thought I would be able to prepare for it, to think about it and to feel ready to move on to another stage of my life, it remains that retiring and leaving this sport, which allowed me to live the strongest moments of my life, is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Labonté said in a statement.
Her career is among the best any women's hockey goaltender has ever had. She had a 47-17 record in 65 career CWHL regular-season games, with a 1.76 goals-against average. She had 13 shutouts, and added a 9-3 record in 12 playoff games, with a 1.59 goals against average. Her nine Clarkson Cup playoff victories are the most all-time.
She won the CWHL's Goaltender of the Year award in each of her last three seasons.
Labonté also shone on the international stage. She finished her international career with a 1.51 goals-against average, .919 save percentage, 16 shutouts, and a 45-12-1 record in 61 games for Canada, ranking second all-time in games played, minutes played (3,374), shutouts, and wins.
She was also the winning goaltender in the 2006 Winter Olympics’ Gold Medal Game.
She was the second woman to play in the QMJHL, after Manon Rhéaume. She was an 11th round pick of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 1999 and played 28 games over two seasons.
“Many highlights come to my mind when I reflect on my career. I think of my participation at the prestigious International Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament with the men’s team, in 1992, my participation at the 1999 Canada Games, when I got drafted in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and my full season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, my three university Canadian champion titles with the Martlets, the Clarkson Cup victory with Les Canadiennes de Montréal, as well as my four Olympic medals,” she said.
“I’ve had the chance to experience memorable moments with Hockey Canada and Les Canadiennes de Montréal. The coaches, the staff and my teammates led me to win four Olympic medals, but above that, they are all exceptional people who have had a great influence on my life. I feel privileged to have lived as many great moments with my best friends.”
Labonté has a masters degree in sport psychology from McGill University, and recently completed a culinary course at l’École de la restauration et du tourisme. She aspires to be a culinary chef and will start an internship with Les Demoiselles, a local catering company.
Labonté's ability, attitude, and determination will leave a hole in the game. While the sport is in a better place than when she started, she still aspires for more.
“For now, we all play for the love of the sport. I dream of a professional league where girls would be paid to play hockey, just like the men,” she said.