French forward Betty Jouanny is in a good place right now, though that wasn’t always the case. She has gotten a fresh start in her SDHL career by joining a new club. This will be Jouanny’s seventh season in the league but her first with Leksands IF. She feels welcomed with her new squad and very much at home.
“I decided to play for Leksand this season because I had heard good things about this team,” Jouanny shared, “and all the time when I have played against them, they were a very tough and fast team. I had a good discussion with our head coach Lars Stenmark, and I liked his projections for this season. I like Leksand too because it is small, and it looks like my village in France – but without my big mountains,” she laughed.
Jouanny hails from Annecy, France but spent most of her life growing up in the town Chamonix in the French Alps. Capable of playing center or wing, she will turn 28 years old only a few days into 2020. The veteran forward has faced more than her fair share of adversity the past few seasons, and it is something that we discuss at length for this interview. Sometimes referred to as “butterfly made of steel”, nothing keeps her encumbered for very long.
Or as Jouanny told me once, “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is the work that you put in.”
Overcoming an Adverse Season in 2018-19
The 2018-19 SDHL season was a tumultuous one for Jouanny to say the least. She played for three different hockey clubs all in the same season. One of those teams was in the lower-tiered Division I league, the level just below the SDHL in Swedish women’s hockey.
“Yes, I played for three teams last year,” she said. “It was very hard for me, because I had some trouble with Djurgården. I don’t want to talk about that, but it was very hard because I worked so hard with my second foot injury to come back, and to get this problem was very unfair for me.”
Jouanny had initially signed with Djurgårdens IF during the summer of 2018. Despite what appeared to be a promising season ahead, she would end up playing only a single game with the team. This was after Jouanny had spent months recuperating from breaking her foot twice within a year and a half.
“I thought a couple of times about quitting hockey because I couldn’t find the pleasure to play,” she shared. “It was just a hard season for me. I was in pain every day with my plates and screws (in her foot). But I decided to continue, and I am very thankful to my physio, my conditioning coach, my friends and family who supported me during this hard season.”
Jouanny would leave Djurgårdens in late November 2018, and joined with Division I’s IF Björklöven. She played brilliantly for this new but unexpected club, and scored seven goals, 12 assists for 19 points in only seven games. Jouanny’s performance caught the attention of SDHL’s MODO who brought her aboard for their postseason run.
“I worked hard,” Jouanny said, “and when we lost with Björklöven, MODO called me to play in the playoffs so I was very happy. It was a good thing for me before the Women’s Worlds with Team France. I learned that in sports, you are just a thing for some coaches. They don’t always care about your health, so you must listen to yourself and make good decisions for your own health. I learned how strong I could be, because after having three surgeries in two years, I am now back at my best level of play.”
Joy Over 2019 Women’s Worlds in Espoo
Much of Jouanny’s inspiration and drive to be her best for Leksands stems from having a dream come true earlier this spring. When the 2019 Women’s World Championship took place in Espoo, Finland back in April, it marked the first time that France competed in the top division. Jouanny and her teammates had taken gold in 2018’s Division I-A tournament – which was played on French ice – and doing so vaulted them into the highest platform for women’s competition.
“It was just amazing to play in this division for the first time ever,” Jouanny smiled. “Our team has again written a good performance. For five years now, we have gotten a good performance, and we want to continue to show that French hockey has grown up.”
In Espoo, France put together a better run than what they may have gotten credit for. As first-timers, they posted an unattractive looking record of 0-1-0-4, but that included an overtime victory. Additionally, while scoring just seven goals in five games, they managed to only allow 13 against. That was at least equally stingy to or better than Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden.
Ever so Close…
Jouanny played in all five of France’s games, including the 3-2 overtime victory over the Germans on Apr. 8. The French also lost two extremely close contests with Sweden – one of which was the ninth place game – by scores 2-1 and 3-2. Though she did not generate points during the tournament, Jouanny was one of the most heavily used players in the face-off circle for France. 70 times she took a draw within the five contests.
“We won against Germany,” she recalled, “and we lost the last game against Sweden, so unfortunately we got sent down. We were disappointed because we saw how close we were with the other teams. So, next year when we organize for the Worlds, we will have one target – to come back in the top division and stay there this time.”
If a person is going to dream, they may as well dream big. Yes, Jouanny saw one dream come true by playing in the IIHF’s top division, but she has a larger dream beyond that. It is one that has been in the forefront of her mind for a while.
“(Espoo), this was one of my dreams. But I am 27 now, and my big dream is to get our team into qualification for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.”
Focus for the 2019-20 SDHL Season
First things first though, Jouanny has the 2019-20 SDHL season ahead of her. While she has practiced and had some exhibition play with Leksands, at the time of this interview the regular season had not yet commenced. Beijing might be her biggest dream right now, but her focus presently is on what she can do to make Leksands a winning hockey club.
The club’s leading point scorer last season was Anna Borgqvist with 32 (7G, 25A) in 36 games, but she has moved onto SDHL rival HV71. Leksands’ top goal scorer was Danielle Stone who potted 15 of them – she has joined HV71 as well. In total, last season’s Leksands team had 12 different players reach double digits in points, with five of them having at least 20.
Though Jouanny will not be expected to lead the team in scoring per se, Leksands will call upon her to be a player that can produce. 2018-19 may have been disappointing for her, but Jouanny is still a proven point-getter. She has generated double-digit SDHL seasons four times. Her finest season offensively came with Brynäs IF in 2014-15, when she put forth 10 goals and seven assists in 28 games.
Putting up numbers is something Jouanny feels she can do in 2019-20 without question, and she sees doings so as a means to an end.
“My goal as a team is to make the playoffs – and that is the minimum,” she said firmly. “For me personally, I want to produce points and show the way I can give 100-percent; work hard as I like to do. And of course, have fun when I play.”
What Lies Beyond and the Years Ahead
Focusing on the present is a very fine place to start, and though Jouanny feels at times that she is getting older, she still is still plenty young. She can continue to play hockey for as long as she would like. If Jouanny’s sights are set on Beijing 2022, then figure that this “French butterfly” will remain at the professional hockey level for another three years at least.
No matter how active and fast-moving Jouanny may be, she can relax in the comfort of knowing that time is on her side, and she is on the right path.
“For now, I am just playing hockey,” she stated. “But after that, I already have my degree as a conditioning coach. I want to work in a rehab center for athletes who get injuries and must work to get back on track. I am also finishing my certification in 2020 to be an ice hockey coach”. Jouanny then smiled and laughed, “And find a boyfriend and have a family. But right now, I am playing hockey.”