From Jeers to Cheers: Kim St-Pierre set to enter Hockey Hall of Fame
As she stood in the goal crease of hockey rinks in and around Quebec, a young Kim St-Pierre heard it all from those she faced off against.
As the lone girl in the entire Châteauguay minor hockey association, the netminder became used to the vitriol not even her mask could shield her from.
“For sure, they wanted to win and didn’t want to lose against a girl,” said St-Pierre. “I heard a lot of bad comments and negative stuff like ‘girls should not play hockey.’ I don’t think it was personal, but it was never easy to hear.”
St-Pierre instead used these hurtful messages as fuel to propel her towards the game’s greatest heights, including, most recently, to hockey’s hallowed Hall of Fame.
St-Pierre, who had been eligible for admission into the Hall since 2016, initially thought she would have to wait another year for induction.
“I knew the announcement was coming at 4:30, but I was thinking the inductees would find out perhaps a day or a few hours before,” she said. “I got the call 15 minutes before the official announcement. That’s why, at some point, I didn’t think it would be this year and I kind of had moved on. When my phone actually rang and I saw a Toronto number, I picked up and saw it was (Hall of Fame chairman) Lanny McDonald. Right away, I didn’t know what to say. I was not expecting it so I didn’t know how to react. When it actually officially happens, so much is going through your mind.”
After basking in the moment with her husband and two sons Liam, 8, and Ayden, 6, the three-time Olympic gold medallist made sure to call her parents and two brothers before the official announcement was made. She says it is largely thanks to her athletic parents (her mom Louise is a physical education teacher and triathlete, while her father André is a former draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1970) that she was able to immerse herself in sports.
“I’m so lucky that my parents were into sports,” she said. “I am so grateful that my parents decided to show us different sports, individual or team sports and I think it made me the athlete that I still am today. I love working out every day and it became a part of my life. It’s so important to have the support of your parents and my parents made it fun.”
Calls, text messages, e-mails and many social media posts soon followed from extended family, former teammates, coaches and staff members across the many teams St. Pierre suited up for across her 13-year professional career.
Her path towards hockey immortality, however, was almost quelled in 1998.
St-Pierre was at a crossroads in her hockey journey. In her final season of midget hockey and having not been drafted into the QMJHL, St-Pierre was beginning to accept that her days of playing organized hockey would soon be a thing of the past. Perhaps she would play occasionally in a garage league, she thought, to stay active.
That’s when she met Dan Madden, then-general manager of the McGill University Martlets, who had made a scouting trip to one of St-Pierre’s games in Châteauguay. She was ultimately recruited to play goal at McGill, a decision that St-Pierre qualifies today as “life-changing” both professionally and personally.
“I was quite excited and scared at the same time because women’s hockey was not really my thing,” she said. “I had been cut a few times from the provincial team, so for me I wasn’t really into women’s hockey, but it was my last chance to play another maybe four, five years of hockey. I didn’t know anybody going to McGill and I didn’t speak English. The only thing that kept me motivated and going was that I could still play organized hockey. That’s also where I met my husband (Lenny-Jo Goudreau) and my best friend Amy Doyle. She was the other goalie. She was there to support me. She taught me English and I taught her French.”
St-Pierre admits the teams she played for at McGill were “not very good” at first. Nevertheless, St-Pierre shone playing with women for the first time in her hockey career. She was named team MVP and rookie of the year across the Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) conference, posting an 8–12–5 record with 3 shutouts in her inaugural campaign with the Martlets.
Come her sophomore season, St-Pierre led the Martlets to a silver medal at the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) championships, the best result in program history, while facing an average of 37.5 shots a game. She would also be named tournament MVP. She would also collect a bronze medal at Nationals during the 2000–2001 season.
Across 103 career games with the Martlets, St-Pierre had a 50–40–12 record with 27 shutouts and a 2.13 goals against average.
It was her play between the pipes at McGill that began to garner some attention from Hockey Canada brass, who invited St-Pierre to training camp with the national team, held in Montreal.
“My first camp went really well,” St-Pierre remembered. “I had the chance to play in the Three Nations Cup. We won the Three Nations Cup and I made the team for Worlds that year.”
St-Pierre would not look back from there, earning three consecutive gold medals with Canada at the Winter Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010. She would add five more IIHF World Championship golds while wearing the maple leaf sweater. She remains, to this day, the all-time leader in games played (83), wins (64) and shutouts (29) for Canada. She posted a 1.17 goals-against average in red and white, a figure that drops to a minuscule 0.78 GAA when solely taking into account her Olympic statistics.
St-Pierre, who had always dreamt of reaching the Olympics in any sport, much less hockey, fondly remembers her first Olympic Games experience in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
“It was so incredible,” she said. “Growing up, I watched all the Olympics. It was always so special to see those athletes. The fire in their eyes when they were getting their gold medal, getting on the podium, and opening ceremonies, all of these moments made this so attractive for me. It motivated me and inspired me. Anytime I had to do something for school, I would pick an athlete and research and try to find out how to become a good Olympic athlete. Once I got my chance, it was kind of unreal.”
St-Pierre remembers losing all eight games to the Americans in the buildup to the Games and the slew of penalties given to Team Canada in the gold medal game in front of a boisterous pro-American crowd. Ultimately, it was Canada prevailing with a 3–2 win.
Her final Olympic gold-medal was also memorable, for it was earned on home soil.
“Not too many athletes have the chance to go through the Olympics in your home country,” she said. “In Vancouver, everyone had a hockey jersey on and everyone was cheering for hockey and all the other athletes. I definitely really enjoyed those Games and I feel lucky that I was able to be a part of it.”
St-Pierre did not play in the gold-medal game, ceding the net to 23-year-old Shannon Szabados, who would earn a 28-save shutout in the 2–0 win over the Americans. She also watched from the bench as 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin scored both goals in the winning effort for Canada. It proved to be a full-circle moment for St-Pierre, as she reflected on her early days with the program.
“When I started, I didn’t know that there were other girls playing hockey,” she said. “Once I found out that France St. Louis was a hockey player, Danielle Goyette and Nancy Drolet here in Quebec, it opened my eyes. I thought I was the only one playing hockey. These women paved the way for so many of us. Once I got to the national team, I saw leaders such as Cassie Campbell, Vicky Sunohara and Thérèse Brisson. It was so overwhelming to be able to be with them and learn from all these incredible leaders. Now, with my generation, with Caroline Ouellette and Charline Labonté, we’re trying to keep pushing the sport.”
St-Pierre still follows the progress of the women’s game and the aspirations of those within the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) to create a sustainable professional women’s hockey league, following the shuttering of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) in May 2019. St-Pierre formerly played with the Montreal Stars of the CWHL, earning two Clarkson Cup championships and three top goaltender awards while playing in the now-defunct league.
St-Pierre is the eighth woman to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame and the first female goaltender bestowed such an honour.
As she continues to soak in the news, St-Pierre reflects upon those early days in the sport, the insults she heard from all four corners of the rink. Most importantly, she remembers the teammates and the special bonds she forged along the way leading to 30 Yonge Street in Toronto.
“For me, every day was a new day, a new chance to become a better hockey player, but also to be a good teammate,” she said. “I remember all the gold medals, the big games, and the Olympics, but it’s all the people I got to meet and now call my friends that stand out. That is what you are left with when the gold medals are in the drawers.”