Side by Side

Written by Safia Ahmad

Caroline Ouellette and Noémie Marin are no strangers to competition.  As athletes and best friends, they push each other to the limit and demand excellence from one another each time they hit the ice, proudly donning Les Canadiennes de Montréal’s iconic blue, white, and red jersey.

“There are a couple of girls on the team who call us the grumpettes,” said Marin. “We look grumpy because we want to be focused, we want to win. We act the same way when we train as well, we love being intense during our workouts.”

It’s that innate desire to be the best that allowed Ouellette to come back to the game she loves less than two months after giving birth to her first child. On Feb. 4, after notching five assists in her first four games back, Ouellette became the CWHL’s all-time goals leader when she found the back of the net for her 131st career regular season goal in Les Canadiennes’ 6-0 shutout win against the Boston Blades.

For some time, the four-time Olympic gold medalist has led the league in career assists (184) and points (315) in the regular season and was tied with CWHL legend Jayna Hefford for the all-time goals mark at 130.

But the newly minted goals record did not last long. Marin, who had an exceptional 2017-18 season with 31 points (17 G, 14 A) in 26 games, surpassed Ouellette’s record during Les Canadiennes’ final regular season game, a 2-0 shutout victory over the Calgary Inferno. In that game Marin also became the first player in Canadiennes’ history to reach the 200 games played milestone.

“I only realized at the last second that our records were so close,” said Marin. “Neither one of us thought about it really. I think the people around us paid a lot more attention. I was happy when she beat it and we celebrated, she was happy when I reached the new milestone. There was never any competition between us.”

Having both played on the same line for much of their career, Marin feels that her accomplishment is a reflection of the chemistry she has developed with Ouellette and how they have complemented each other throughout the years.

Marin and Ouellette’s friendship blossomed as college roommates and teammates on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Their success in the CWHL was preceded by achievements at the NCAA level. Over three seasons, Ouellette was a dominant force with the Bulldogs, recording 229 points (92 G, 137 A) in 97 games. She was a finalist for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2004 and 2005, and was inducted into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) All-Decade team in 2009.

Meanwhile, Marin’s exceptional 168 points (91 G, 77 A) in 126 games earned her a spot among the top-10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2006 and 2007. She was also named a WCHA Scholar-Athlete.

Their passion for hockey forged a strong bond between the two standout players, but surprisingly Ouellette and Marin first met each other out on the softball diamonds in their home province of Quebec. At the time, Marin and Ouellette represented Softball Québec’s Équipe Québec at the midget and junior levels, respectively.

“We would occasionally play against each other during exhibition games. She was so talented at softball from a young age” recalled Ouellette, adding that her talent and work ethic are qualities which allowed Marin to represent Canada at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games as a member of the Canadian softball team that finished fourth.

Ouellette speaks in equal admiration of Marin’s talent on the ice too.

“Her hockey IQ is remarkable. She also has a unique ability to score goals, which stems from her desire to work hard to improve each facet of her game. Her preparation for games is fantastic, she’s a real professional,” she said.

Meanwhile, Marin who is five years younger than Ouellette, has always looked up to her and was inspired by Ouellette’s dedication to training and preparation.

“She had a great deal of influence on my career as an athlete,” Marin said. “The way she trains, the importance she puts into preparation, her discipline, her knowledge […]. Caroline has influenced me personally too. She is generous, donates her time, tries to be as available as possible, gives back to hockey, and influenced me to do the same.”

Together, they have witnessed the growth of women’s hockey and have watched the CWHL come a long way from its inception in 2007, winning four Clarkson Cups (2009, 2011, 2012, 2017) side-by-side.

“Everything has gotten better,” said Ouellette. “Starting with our amazing staff that surrounds our team and allows us to concentrate on our performance on the ice. It’s also fantastic to see the players getting paid for playing hockey. We have been working for it and have dreamed about it since the beginning.”

Marin adds: “We have it much easier now. Is there space for us to improve the league? Yes, for sure. I think there will always be space for that. […] But the league has grown a lot since the beginning. It’s become a lot more professional and we need to treat the league well because we are lucky to have what we have.”

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