2022 23  n w t  stacey  desbiens

Energized in the offseason

While 3-on-3 summer hockey is not a new concept, the Living Sisu Hockey League out of Montreal is breathing new life into the offseason game

Bernadette Larose
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August 25, 2022
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For some of hockey’s best based out of Montreal, the offseason contained a little more fun and friendly competition than in years past.

In just its second season, the Living Sisu Hockey League (LSHL) caught the eyes of many this summer, with a splashy social media presence that showcased a lively atmosphere where NHLers and elite women’s players prepped shoulder-to-shoulder for their upcoming seasons.

Split across four teams, players like Zach Fucale, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Jonathan Huberdeau and Kris Letang highlighted the men’s division, while members of Canada’s National Women’s Team —Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Laura Stacey, Mélodie Daoust, Jessie Eldridge and more—shone on the women’s side.

Coming off a golden year that saw Canada take home both an IIHF Women’s World Championship and Olympic gold , the league was a fun and challenging part of Stacey’s offseason training as she prepared for a new season, beginning with National Women’s Team selection camp in August ahead of the 2022 women’s worlds.

“Like any hockey player when you’re training in the summer, you do your drills, you’re working out, working on skills,” says the 5-foot-9 forward. “But what we’re really missing is that team atmosphere, that competitive atmosphere where we push each other and get better.

“It was a lot of fun; it was something to get the whole group together and look forward to every Monday night.”

But Stacey is quick to note that while comradery and community highlighted the league, competition was still the name of the game, expressing with a laugh her disappointment at a semifinal knockout for her and her teammates—the loss of bragging rights amongst her national teammates even worse.

Desbiens earned those honours, taking a 9-6 win over Stacey’s squad.

For Desbiens, while the win was sweet, she relished the opportunity to keep competing over the summer in a fun way, saying, “Sometimes in the summer it's more about just practicing and skills, but with the league all of us were looking forward to being in that team setting, being able to compete, keep track of the score, playoffs. It got very competitive, but it was also the highlight of the week for all of us.”

The 3-on-3 play offered plenty of opportunity to work on small-area games and apply skill work in a competitive setting against top athletes from across the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA).

“As a goalie, 3-on-3 might not be the most ideal setting, I'll be honest,” Desbiens says with a laugh. “It definitely adds more odd-number situations, more tips, screens, rebounds. Every shot is a threat, breakaways. It's definitely very challenging, very fast-paced, very back and forth. Got to play the puck quite a bit so that made it even more enjoyable, but very challenging as a goalie, but that's what makes it fun.”

Beyond the benefit to their play on the ice, the LSHL pulled in fans in the arena and online with ample social media coverage exposing the new league to hockey fans in Montreal and across the country.

“They did a great job, they had a ton of coverage,” says Stacey. “We had full stands. It was a great crowd and a good energy. It just shows that people want to see it. They want to come out and see our games and social media is huge for getting that message out.”

While professional women’s leagues are growing, the opportunity for most Canadians to watch these athletes is still centred around international competition and the Olympics, with Desbiens noting that the coverage of the LSHL provided a window into the day-to-day fun the athletes have, the summer competition providing another opportunity for visibility.

“I think that's what was special about that league is we had university players, U SPORTS, we had NCAA, we had a lot of different [players],” the goaltender adds. “If you come to watch, you'll see names that you might have never heard of before, but you should probably know them.”

With a 3-on-3 championship under her belt, Desbiens will look to add another, this time alongside Stacey, at the 2022 women’s worlds in Denmark. Canada comes in as the reigning world and Olympic champions, with all eyes on it as it tries to go back-to-back for the first time since 2001.

Stacey notes the excitement and curiosity she’s received from other players, looking for opportunities similar in areas like Toronto and Calgary, and how the visibility and training opportunity the LSHL has created can only help to build women’s hockey as a whole.

“I just think that anytime you can get that awareness and that excitement out there, it helps grow the game.”

Follow all of the action as Canada’s National Women’s Team competes at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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