In a summer where the NWHL has hogged many of the headlines in women’s hockey, the CWHL made a big announcement on Thursday evening, unveiling the new logo and jersey, not to mention the name, of Les Canadiennes de Montréal.
The Montreal Stars of the CWHL have officially rebranded themselves as Les Canadiennes with spiffy new jerseys that call both to their past as the Stars and to their future, as a partner with the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. (Head over here to get a different look at the new jerseys.)
The team moniker is less any sort of feminizing of the Canadiens label and more about the history of hockey in Quebec. According to Shauna Denis, who is Group Manager, HabsTV and Editorial for the Montreal Canadiens:
Les Canadiennes existed in the 1930’s. They were the first French-Canadian women’s team to play in Québec. They played against the Montreal Maroons female team. It was a rivalry between the two – the English and the French. We thought that was a cool throwback to the pioneers here in Québec
With the CWHL looking, at times, as though they were falling behind the NWHL in PR, the reveal of Les Canadiennes new jerseys was a firm reminder that the CWHL has made a major announcement of their own for this coming season.
The CWHL announcement elaborates on the partnership between the two organizations, which was announced back in March of 2015: “In addition to promotional and financial assistance, as part of the partnership, the Canadiens will work with Les Canadiennes on sponsorship, marketing, consumer products and community initiatives throughout the season.”
That already sounds like the partnership is more than skin deep, but a statement from CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress puts an even finer point on the situation.
History is being made today as there is no better partner in Quebec hockey than the Montreal Canadiens. As a league, we are proud to have reached this point, where a female hockey player can finally realize her dream of becoming a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization.
Kevin Gilmore, the Canadiens’ executive vice president and COO added, in the announcement at the Canadiens website:
In Quebec, hockey is ingrained in the fabric of our society, and it’s part of our culture. Our goal with this partnership is to not only help promote the team and the CWHL, but also to inspire young female players across the province. We look forward to working with Les Canadiennes to help grow the game at both the professional and the grassroots levels.
The CWHL elaborated on the partnership at their site saying it will give the club “access to everything from marketing and promotional help to mentorship and access to the Habs practice facility.”
The connection should, even aside from the financial assistance, allow the organization to draw larger crowds, impact the community in greater ways and reach more young players who will see that there’s a future in hockey for them. Or, as Denis puts it, they can “show young girls that they can dream of growing up to be the next [Marie-Philip] Poulin instead of the next Carey Price is an important part of growing the game.”
More to Come?
This partnership, and seeing the extent to which the Canadiens and Les Canadiennes will be associated due to their name and their jersey design, represents the kind of inter-league support that allowed the WNBA to be such a strong success out of the gates. But it’s not the first of its kind for the CWHL. (Nor is the CWHL coming “out of the gates,” having been founded in 2007.)
The Toronto Furies and the Toronto Maple Leafs struck up a partnership in 2012, with the Furies getting $30,000 a year from the Leafs for “coaching costs and to help offset equipment, uniforms and travel expenses.” They also get some promotional support and other benefits from the partnership.
The Calgary Inferno and Calgary Flames also have a partnership, which is a little less clear, though the Flames site does state that the “Flames and Flames Foundation have made an $80,000 commitment to support women’s hockey in Calgary.” The Flames gave a similar blessing of the jerseys that are thematically tied to the NHL club, with the colors and a similar name. The team name was even announced at the Scotiabank Saddledome prior to a Flames preseason game in 2013.
That gives three of the league’s five teams major support from NHL clubs, which isn’t insignificant for the health of the league and the health of hockey in those regions. Of the other two teams, only one is in a city with NHL hockey, and they’ve also been given NWHL hockey this year, so it may be interesting to see if the Boston Bruins come out with a partnership in the spirit of the partnerships already struck by the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Flames, and if they do, which league they get behind.
Les Canadiennes will skate onto the ice for the first time in their new jerseys on October 17 against the Brampton Thunder.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.