By Mark Staffieri
One of the unsung heroes of the Montreal Stars, Kelly Sudia had a remarkable presence on the ice. While she may not have been a prolific scorer like Caroline Ouellette or Sabrina Harbec, her experience and poise on the Stars blueline was a key factor in the Stars?۪ multiple Clarkson Cup triumphs.
While many athletes ponder the decision of retirement, Sudia was confident in her decision. ???No, I knew it was time. Sometimes you know when it?۪s time. After we won the Clarkson Cup in 2012, it was a nice way to end things on a good note.? Even in retirement, Sudia is still remaining an active part of the Stars organization.
???I am assisting (general manager) Meg Hewings. My duties would be assisting her in terms of operations and logistics with the Stars.?
In the first contest of the 2012-13 CWHL season, the Stars hosted the Boston Blades, and the ceremonial faceoff served as an opportunity to honour the Stars retired heroes. Sudia, along with fellow retired teammates Stephanie Denino and Nathalie Dery were at centre ice along with CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress to participate. ???That was very thoughtful of the organization to do that. It was the first time that they honoured their players. What a great closing note to my career.? Sudia jokingly mentioned, ???It was nice to not be standing out there alone.?
In her years of service with the Stars, she found kindred spirits in Nathalie Dery and team captain Lisa-Marie Breton. ???With Liz (Breton), the joke was that we were always the last three in the dressing room. The old folks would take the most time to get ready,? joked Sudia.
For the last few seasons, Dery and Sudia had discussed the possibilities of retirement. ???Nathalie and I had our own joke. For the last three years we would say ???Ok, one more year.?۪ At the 2010 Clarkson Cup (contested in Richmond Hill, Ontario), we said ???If we win, that?۪s it, we?۪re done.?۪ When we lost (the Clarkson Cup semi-finals) in 2010, which was Patrick?۪s first time (as head coach), we looked at each other and we knew we were not going to end on that note. We wanted to come back and do it. In 2011, we were on such a high note, we said, ???We can?۪t end this now.?۪ Even though Nathalie officially announced her retirement in Barrie, Ontario (where the Clarkson Cup was contested), she ended up coming back.?
Her great teamwork skills came from her experience with the Concordia Stingers, in which she first played with Lisa-Marie Breton, while competing for head coach Les Lawton, the first women?۪s hockey coach to win 500 games in a career. ???Les was a good coach. He has been there for a long time. He cares a lot about his girls.?
Sudia is quick to acknowledge the influence that Breton had on her with the Stingers and the Stars. ???When I played with Liz, she had been the captain for two years at Concordia. In terms of leadership, she was unreal. When she came to the Stars, it was escalated. She is not just the captain, but she is your best friend. She treats everyone like that.?
While many prominent athletes have difficulty adjusting to life after competing, Sudia is in great spirits. ???I am still staying active. It does not feel like retirement. I am still part of it. The preparation is a little bit different. I miss out on the locker room. We still have game days but it is a different sense.? Although her impact on the game may be different, there are many Stars players that are happy her presence is still being felt.