The sport of hockey is for everyone. It’s a slogan we see and hear on social media, on television and on the radio. While the NHL uses it as a marketing tool to grow the game, in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), it really is something everyone who has served has participated in, in one form or another.
This article will highlight one member of the CAF and show how hockey connects serving members with their hometowns, their fellow serving members and every hockey fan. This piece will introduce us all to Chief Petty Officer First Class (CPO1) Line Laurendeau of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).
Laurendeau, a St-Jean-Port-Joli Quebec native, joined the RCN in 1993. Like most sailors, she joined for the adventures the RCN could provide, like the romantic notions of travelling the world and experiencing vastly different cultures. She was able to experience that and so much more.
The day-to-day business of a professional navy requires dedication and focus. Laurendeau was able to balance her community volunteer work, her career and her thirst for education as she strived to complete her post-secondary education. She eventually earned her Bachelor of Military Arts and Science (BMASc), while also excelling in her chosen profession, becoming a Member of the Order of Military Merit in 2014 for her demonstrated dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty, achieving conspicuous merit and exceptional military service. This desire to better herself and those around her is a trait seen in many who serve. It is also the main reason she continues to serve 28 years after her enrollment:
“I joined the Royal Canadian Navy for the adventure and for having the chance in making a difference in people’s lives at home or abroad.”CPO1 Line Laurendau
Laurendeau has been able to meet that desire. In multiple overseas deployments, one experience stands out for her. She told me of her time rebuilding Orphanages in Malaysia and in Vietnam.
“My most memorable experience – I have the luxury to say that I had numerous memorable experiences in my career – was when I was deployed in the Persian Gulf on board HMCS Ottawa in 2003 and I was able to make a difference for some orphans through giving some gifts and rebuilding an orphanage. Years later, I was able to do something when I deployed on board HMCS Calgary in the South China Sea.”CPO1 Line Laurendeau
Over a distinguished military career, Laurendeau has excelled, as she has been dedicated to her career and has reached the highest rank of any Non-Commissioned Member (NCM). Currently, she has also been assigned the honour of becoming the next Coxswain of the HMCS Winnipeg, which is the highest-ranking NCM on a warship tasked with maintaining safety, good order and discipline for all souls on board.
This is a hockey website, and, being Canadian, Laurendeau is no stranger to hockey. She, like most Canadians, has been a fan of the game her entire life. Soon after arriving in beautiful British Columbia, Line became a passionate Vancouver Canucks fan hoping to one day see the Stanley Cup be paraded through the city.
Her favourite hockey memory was experiencing the Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup run, living the excitement and the disappointment of watching her beloved team get to a fabled Game 7, only to fall to the Boston Bruins.
“I love the sport and following a team is like being part of them!”CPO1 Line Laurendeau
In the meantime, she has been active in giving back to the community through hockey by volunteering as an official at various levels of minor hockey, as well as being instrumental in growing the women’s game in the military since her enrollment 28 years ago.
Laurendeau continues to play the sport she loves as a goaltender. Over the years, she has won multiple Gold and Silver medals at the National and Regional levels of Women’s military hockey. She has also been recognized as one of the nation’s top military goaltenders as well.
Her passion for the sport has inspired many newly enrolled military members to pursue their love of hockey, which has helped grow the women’s game in the CAF to new, highly competitive heights.
Hockey Connects Us All
As most members of the CAF must do at times, Laurendeau has deployed overseas for long periods of time. In those months spent away from home, from family and friends, hockey has been a touchstone for her to connect with her loved ones and her shipmates.
“Hockey helps me feel more connected with my family, friends, country while on missions/out to sea. It certainly helps when discussing Team Canada competing vs other countries and there is no price to the connection.”CPO1 Line Laurendeau
Like most who serve, Laurendeau organizes her work schedule as best she can so that it can work around watching her favourite team. Changing time zones and long hours make it difficult, however, she sees it as many others do as a way to connect with a sense of normalcy during a stressful time. Especially when there are fans of the opposing team in the room, that’s when the hockey chirps get creative, and offer all some fun and laughs to take their minds off of the stresses of the day.
When given the opportunity, Laurendeau helps to organize some ball hockey games when the ship arrives in port. Each ship carries nets, sticks and equipment that allows the crew to unwind with some fun ashore. Sometimes playing just a game among a small group of friends, oftentimes, a full tournament that provides the winners with some reward such as a special meal of their choosing or a little extra rest and relaxation time while in port, but mostly, it provides bragging rights.
“Engaging in some friendly ball hockey or other such activities with the ship/shipmates. It certainly brings you home and we all feel connected by having fun playing a game that everyone loves watching.”CPO1 Line Laurendeau
Sports, in this case, hockey, are a passion that unites us all. In the CAF, thanks to people like CPO1 Line Laurendeau, it is used to unite and to distract from the stresses of service, and the loneliness that distance from loved ones brings, a feeling far too many have had to experience during this global pandemic. Most of all, she provides us all an example that hockey truly is for everyone.
I have been a writer covering the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens for over 6 years. I am also currently a 27+ year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces