From Toronto to Montreal, via Connecticut and… Shenzhen! It’s a unique journey that has led Elaine Chuli in front of the net for the Montreal team in the Professional Women’s Hockey League (LPHF).
A journey which must have been good, since the one who shares the work with Ann-Renée Desbiens sits today at 1er rank of goalkeepers in the new league in the main statistical categories.
Her sample is small, but she took advantage of the rare opportunities offered to her. In three games, she showed an average of 1.31 and an efficiency of .962, highs in the LPHF. Unsurprisingly, Montreal won in these three matches.
In short, she commands attention, and not just because of her mask adorned with images of Carey Price and Ken Dryden.
“It’s easy to give him starts, because we know what to expect in terms of performance,” underlines Kori Cheverie, team coach, after Monday’s training at Center 21.02.
Detour through China
The fact remains that, like many players of her generation (she was born in 1994), her path to reaching professional status was twisted.
It started with four years at the University of Connecticut, where she is “a legend,” says her teammate Leah Lum, who crossed paths with her on the Huskies from 2014 to 2016. “She had to surpass herself on many occasions. times there, as she does here when she receives 40, 50 shots per game! She’s incredible,” says Lum.
Knee surgery out of college forced her to miss the 2016-17 season, and it was an unexpected call-up that allowed her to relaunch her career.
I got a call asking if I wanted to play in China. I immediately accepted!
It was therefore for the Kunlun Red Stars that she signed up, at a time when China was trying to promote hockey with a view to the 2022 Winter Games. The team was based in Shenzhen, a Chinese metropolis just in northern Hong Kong. “It was super professional, we were treated very well. It allowed me to travel. We were a two-hour plane ride from Thailand, and I also traveled north, to do a long hike on the Great Wall of China. I really loved my experience. »
Returning from the Middle Kingdom, Chuli then played for the various teams that followed one another in his native Toronto, the last two years in the now defunct Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), for the Six.
“She has played a lot of matches in recent years, compared to those who have only participated in “showcases,” estimates Olivier Michaud, goalkeeper coach of the Montreal team. She is very advanced in reading the game, she “feels” the game. I also discover a mentally strong goalkeeper. As soon as an exercise means something, it shows.
“Also, she left Toronto, where it was HER net, to arrive here, where she has to fight for minutes. And she was very correct with that. She reacted really well and gave us the chance to win every time. »
Chuli indeed has the misfortune of being born in 1994, the same year as Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer, two pillars of Team Canada since their years with the U18s. Her only statistics within a national team date back to the 2012 U18 World Cup. As if she had constantly had to fight in the shadow of the two jailers.
“We were still joking recently, we said that 1994 is not the best year of birth for a babysitter!,” relates Chuli. But it’s a privilege to be here, to compete with Ann-Renée. We fight every day, but at the end of the day, we play for the same team. »
Even though Desbiens has gotten two-thirds of the starts so far, Chuli feels no reason to complain. The conditions of the LHPF notably allowed him to take a break from his work in accounting. It still appears in the directory of the Order of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.
“I still have my certification, I still have a few clients, but on my own. Last year, I could have not worked, but I wanted to do it, it did me good mentally, it kept me from always being in hockey mode, even if I worked 35 to 40 hours a week. It’s different this year, I have to find something else to do at home! So I can now read, I have time to relax, to go to cafes. »
The recipe has worked well for him so far.
Cheverie in French
In a rich interview published on Saturday with colleague Simon-Olivier Lorange, Kori Cheverie confirmed that she was still taking French lessons, and that if she could not give a complete interview in her new second language, she could nevertheless attempt a answer. What she did on Monday, without even The Press Don’t ask him. About Elaine Chuli, she said she has “a good attitude and she takes a lot of reps.” Elaine’s performances are very, very, very good, because her effort, every day, is very good. » A certainly laudable effort. “I’m capable, but I’m a little embarrassed!” “, she added.
The Canadian is not the only Montreal team with three resources in front of the net. In addition to Desbiens and Chuli, the club counts on New Brunswicker Marlène Boissonnault. The latter has not yet played, but she is nevertheless entitled to a good volume of work. Monday, during the passage of The Press, Desbiens was missing, since she had played the day before in Minnesota with Team Canada as part of the Rivalry Series. Chuli and Boissonnault therefore each had their own net. “When you have two goalkeepers, they receive too many shots,” believes Kori Cheverie. It’s difficult these days with two goalkeepers. It takes three babysitters, otherwise they never get a break. » Olivier Michaud clarified that he also tries to jump on the ice with Boissonnault on match days when she is not in uniform. “She has to train, she has to have volume,” he recalls.
Speaking of the Rivalry Series, the Montreal team had five players: Desbiens, Marie-Philip Poulin, Laura Stacey, Sophie Shirley and Erin Ambrose. The five were exempt from Monday’s practice as they played three games in five days and returned to Montreal late Sunday evening. But Cheverie was there too, as an assistant. But she nevertheless led Monday’s session in Verdun. “I coached the game, I waited at the airport, the flight was delayed, I finally arrived and went to bed at 2 a.m. And I got up at 6:30 a.m. But I missed enough time, it was time for me to come back! »