Quebec City shows the growth of women’s hockey in the province

Over 10,000 fans showed up to watch the top two countries in women’s hockey

Women's hockey is a sport that is consistently growing in Quebec as well as in Canada, which made Sunday's exhibition game between Team Canada and Team USA a notable event.

The Centre Videotron opened its doors for the international tuneup as 10,345 people filed in to see some of the best women’s hockey players in the world.

Four of the current players on the Canadian tryout roster are from the province of Quebec; goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, defender Lauriane Rougeau, and forwards Mélodie Daoust and Marie-Philip Poulin.

Canada will be making five cuts from their roster of 28 down to 23 for the Olympics.

For some of the fans, being able to watch these stars in person was a big deal.

"Women's hockey always has great games, especially the battles between Canada and the US," said Jocelyn Paquin, a local from Quebec City. "It's the first time I'm getting to see a game of this calibre."

In the crowd I came across a mother, Stéphanie, with her two young daughters, six and eight, both young hockey players, who were very excited to watch their idols play. Stéphanie drove all the way from the region of St-Raymond de Portneuf, a town 63 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

"The girls both play in a women's hockey league for a team called Les Citadelles de la Capitale Nationale; and it's important how much it's (women's hockey) growing," said the mother. "And to have a game of such magnitude here, it gives us all goosebumps."

With two young girls from the Quebec region watching their idols, it had to be asked who they were most excited to see, and no surprise that their answer was Poulin, already a legend in the sport, and Canada’s captain.

Poulin is from Beauceville, about an hour from the capital. Last year, the team played two games in Saint-Georges in the Beauce region, which many of the Citadelles attended. For many of the girls, it was their first time seeing their heroes in person and laid the groundwork for an international game in Quebec City.

Sandra drove from Montreal for the game, which also featured three members of Les Canadiennes.

"Essentially this is the most intense women's hockey game you can possibly see," she said. "It's the best women on earth, and it's so close to home, you just can't miss it."

A couple from France, Aurélia and Samuel, spoke to me about how they had never seen a women's hockey game ever before at any level and this was fun and how they didn't know at all what to expect. Not a bad first game.

They wouldn't be the only out of towners I met Sunday afternoon, meeting James (Barrie, Ontario) and Amelia (Richmond, Quebec). James came because he had vacation time and saw no better way to spend his vacation.

It wasn’t only an opportunity for fans to see their heroes in a potential preview of an Olympic final. It was also an opportunity for some of the players from Quebec to play at the highest level so close to home.

"There was definitely a lot of excitement for us to come here as a team, but especially for us four, to be in front of our friends and families,” said Rougeau “I have some of my family who has never really seen me play, so it brings a lot of excitement.”

"We (as a team) really want to thank everyone today, and the city of Quebec for hosting us, and we hope that the other two Canadian cities will feel the same."

The second game in the six-game series will take place Wednesday in Boston.

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