Written by Safia Ahmad
Every four years, Montréal native Lana Lloyd, 45, and her family would watch the Winter Olympics. Since the inception of the women’s hockey tournament in 1998, they would gather to watch Canadian hockey legends like Cassie Campbell, Jayna Hefford, and Caroline Ouellette, battle for gold.
“Women can play hockey? We’re allowed to?”, Lana recalled thinking. “They were a unique group. And I would wonder ‘how did they get there?’”
Flash forward to the 2014-15 CWHL season. Lana and her husband attended their first Les Canadiennes game at Étienne Desmarteau arena, the team’s former home rink. Marveling at the quality and style of play displayed on the ice, Lana understood where many Olympians, like Ouellette, harnessed their talent and skills in preparation for the Olympics.
Soon after watching her first game, she invited her grandmother, Irene Durdon, 92, and mother, Nancy Durdon, 67, to watch a Les Canadiennes game.
They were instantly hooked.
“She fell in love,” Lana said, speaking of her grandmother. “She picked Ann-Sophie Bettez right off the bat and said, ‘that’s my player’ and she’s been to every game since.”
Nancy Durdon remembers sitting in the first row next to former Les Canadiennes player, CWHL co-founder and assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux, who was battling an injury at the time. She let Nancy into her world and spoke at length about the team’s history, while keeping a sharp, perceptive eye on the game, Nancy recalled.
“I’ll never forget how she told me the history of the [Montréal] Stars,” she said. “To get it first hand from a co-founder, it made me [fall] even more in love with women’s hockey, and our team, Les Canadiennes.”
Hockey has always been a family affair for the Durdon’s, who are avid fans of the Montréal Canadiens. They have each witnessed Stanley Cup winning years at different moments in history, spanning from the Montréal Canadiens 1950s dynasty team to the Habs’ last conquest of 1993.
However, their passion for women’s hockey is recent. Even though women’s hockey is historically rooted in the late 19th century, the game had largely remained in the shadow of their male counterparts’ spotlight until the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, when women’s hockey was officially introduced.
Irene recalls never hearing of women’s hockey in the 1940s and ‘50s, and the situation was fairly similar for Nancy in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was only when Lana, who idolized Canadiens goaltending legend Ken Dryden, expressed a desire to play hockey as a child that the idea of women playing hockey crept into Nancy’s mind.
“With Lana, even though she couldn’t play hockey on the ice with the boys, she was the only girl on our street and went in nets so the boys could practice,” Nancy recalled.
However, organized leagues for women’s hockey in the ‘80s and ‘90s were non-existent.
“It was completely boys,” she said. “I never played growing up because there was nowhere for me to play.”
The 1998 Winter Olympic games marked a time of change for women’s hockey. Opportunities for young girls and women to play hockey were on the rise. Lana joined a ball hockey league in the early 2000s and since then, she has valiantly defended the crease with her mother and grandmother proudly in attendance.
Today, all three enjoy watching the women’s game grow in popularity among female youth. At Les Canadiennes games, it has become a common sight to see many young girls sporting the team’s paraphernalia and lining up for autographs to meet their idols after games.
Since she first followed Les Canadiennes four years ago, Lana and her family have seen rapid change in the stands as well.
“When I first started going four years ago, there were maybe 20 people in the crowd and it was mostly family,” Lana explained. “No one knew about it. In the last two years, [right] before my eyes, it just exploded and I love to be able to see all the school girls that are here because when I was growing up there were no female players to look up to, so I see these girls and I see that they have role models. I love being a part of this.”
The Durdon family is a regular at Les Canadiennes home games and proud season ticket holders. Their passion for the team has brought them on the road to St-Georges de Beauce, QC for a pair of regular season games against the Boston Blades last season, Toronto for the 2016 CWHL All-Star Game, and Ottawa for the 2016 and 2017 Clarkson Cup Finals featuring Les Canadiennes and the Calgary Inferno.
“When the weekend comes and the girls are in town, we know we’re going to be spending time together [at the arena]. It’s brought us closer together,” Lana said.
At the core of the group lies Irene Durdon. She is the glue that holds the family together and easily the most recognizable Les Canadiennes fan. Perched on a high seat stationed in the middle of Michel Normandin Arena –– the team’s home rink for the season –– Irene proudly sports her “Pink in the Rink” Les Canadiennes jersey at every game and is greeted by players, volunteers, staff, and fans. Lana often stands by her grandmother’s side during games, while Nancy seats herself one row below her mother and daughter, and the three attentively watch the game, never far from one another.
But for the Durdon’s, it’s not only about them––it’s about the Les Canadiennes community.
“We look for other people like they look for us,” she said. “We’re getting the energy [and excitement] from them and they’re also getting the energy back from us. It works both ways. We are all one. We are a community.”