Ève Gascon is a trailblazer.
In 2018, she became the first woman to be a full-time goaltender in the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec, appearing in 18 games with the Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin. In 2019, the Collège Français de Longueuil selected her in the 13th round of the Ligue de hockey junior AAA du Québec draft, making Gascon only the second woman ever selected.
On the ice, the 17-year-old from Terrebonne, Que., has accumulated some impressive hardware. She backstopped Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team to a silver medal at the 2020 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. She won bronze with Quebec at the 2019 National Women’s Under-18 Championship and was named Top Goaltender. And she earned silver with Quebec at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
But it’s what she does off the ice that has made her the recipient of the Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award for the 2020-21 season. The award recognizes an active female player who demonstrates dedication to and leadership in the game.
“I did not expect this,” says Gascon. “It was a very nice surprise when they called me. It’s an honour to be recognized by Hockey Canada.”
Gascon is an active volunteer and mentor in her home province. As a member of the Female Ambassador Program with the Association du hockey mineur Terrebonne, she attends practices with young girls and offers on-ice instruction. With Hockey Quebec, she participates in provincial tours to promote women’s hockey, visiting elementary schools with teammates to share her story. She volunteers at Caroline Ouellette’s hockey camp. When she hears that young goaltenders look up to her, she calls and offers tips and guidance. “I like to help them in their confidence on and off the ice.”
Gascon wants her off-ice contributions to matter as much as her on-ice accomplishments.
“When I was younger, a lot of people helped me to become more mature and disciplined,” she says. “I think it’s important for me to give that back to the younger people. I like to work with young athletes. It’s important to me to do that, and I will continue to do that.”
Stepping up has become second nature. But does Gascon consider herself a leader?
“Yes, I think I’m a good leader,” she says. “I always work hard on and off the ice. I talk to everyone on my team, and I’m always smiling. I think that helps me to be a good leader. With Hockey Canada, it’s a little bit harder because I don’t speak very much English and I’m a little bit shy. With my work on and off the ice, I can be a good leader [there], too.”
Paulin Bordeleau, her coach for two seasons with the Phénix, saw Gascon lead the way daily. “[Her teammates] all had a lot of respect for her, and she gained their respect even more with the way she played. Kids at that age, they lose and it’s, ‘OK, we’ll wait till the next one.’ She won’t accept anyone not caring, and she’ll come out and tell them.”
Bordeleau also watched her simply be a good teammate. “She’s always positive,” he says. “She never got down, was always encouraging everyone and she stayed upbeat. Even after a loss she had a smile on her face walking out. She’s a good example for everyone around the team.”
By breaking down barriers, Gascon has seen her profile rise in Quebec. Thanks to her calm nature, determination and poise between the pipes, she’s become an inspiration to young girls.
“She shows that if you really want something, the sky’s the limit,” says Bordeleau. “She’s resilient. She believes in herself. All the young girls, they really look up to her. They know who she is. They talk to her, and they ask her for autographs. She’s really popular in the province of Quebec. She does a lot of charity events. She speaks to young girls in schools and at summer camps. She’s very committed to doing that and letting them know that anything is possible.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic ended the hockey season early, she found a different way to contribute to her community.
“I was listening to the news every day,” she says. “Schools were closed, and we couldn’t play hockey. I had nothing to do really.” She heard François Legault, the premier of Quebec, urge the public to volunteer to help the province. “I talked with my parents, and I decided I wanted to help. I wanted to contribute.”
She now spends her weekends volunteering at a seniors’ home in L’Assomption, Que. From 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., she cleans the rooms of residents who do not have COVID-19. (Residents who test positive have been moved to one area of the home.) She wears a mask, face shield and gloves for the duration of her shifts.
It’s about giving back to her community and appreciating her own fortunate situation.
“I realized I was very lucky to have healthy grandparents and to have a family who are healthy,” she says. “I think it’s important that we take care of our older people.”
Gascon knows firsthand the importance of strong community support. She recognizes how other people sharing their expertise and experiences helped her succeed on and off the ice. By giving back during the pandemic, she’s paying it forward, just in a different venue.
She may have also found her future.
“I learned about myself,” she says. “I realized that I want to take care of our older generation. I want to be in the health field. I want to do that with my life.”