Eve Gascon has made a career out of playing hockey with the boys.
Eventually, though, this athletic goaltender plans to make a name for herself with the famed women of Team Canada.
First, Gascon will make a bit of hockey history with the QMJHL Gatineau Olympiques. Gascon, 18, reported to the Olympiques Saturday morning, after being called up by the major junior team. Friday night, Gascon recorded her 10th win of the season for her Cegep team, the Saint-Laurent Patriotes. Gascon is 10-5-0 with the Patriotes, playing in the boys Cegep league, with a 2.81 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
After arriving in Gatineau late Friday, the native of Terrebonne, Que., will just get a chance to catch her breath before Gatineau’s 4 p.m. game Saturday at the Slush Puppie Centre against Val-d’Or.
“I feel good,” Gascon says over the phone, between classes at her Cegep school on Friday. “I’m excited to practice with them, and maybe have an opportunity to play games.
“I’m excited but a little bit stressed, for sure.”
Gatineau’s starting goaltender, Remi Poirier (who just signed an entry level contract with the Dallas Stars), is injured. This week, Alexis St. Amour-Lachance was sent back to his junior AAA team, leaving Emerik Despatie as the incumbent Gatineau goalie as Gascon checks in for duty.
Gascon does have some familiarity with the Olympiques, having been invited to their rookie training camp last fall.
At that point, Gascon had already made history by being the first female player to play for a boys major U-18 team in Quebec, with College Esther-Blondin Phenix. That was in 2018.
At Gatineau’s rookie event, Gascon impressed coaching staff and players with her poise and ability.
“We had her on our radar last year,” said Olympiques head coach and GM Louis Robitaille during camp. “She was just coming off a great camp with Hockey Canada. We were really honoured and excited to have her accept our invitation and make Gatineau one of the stops
on her hockey dream.”
Just the fourth woman in league history to join a QMJHL team, Gascon looked like she belonged.
“I was really impressed by her calm, her professionalism,” Robitaille said, after observing Gascon in camp.
Gascon believes there will be some added comfort from having been with Gatineau, even if just for a training camp. Now, things get real.
“It’s a good experience to go there and be with the team,” she says. “It’s very professional.”
The scouting report on Gascon: a goalie who can play the technical game, but also has the ability to flash across the net for a big save.
“I’m athletic, so I can make saves even if I’m not in a good position,” Gascon says, “but I try to be in good position to make the easy saves.”
Though her first strides in hockey were as a skater, Gascon was just seven or eight when she knew she wanted to be a goalie.
“I was impressed by the gear,” Gascon laughs.
That gear was already in the house. Gascon’s father, Stephane was a goaltender in his playing days. Eve also had two ready-made shooters in the house, older brothers Felix and Raphael. Both played competitive hockey and Felix, a five-foot-10 defenceman, was drafted by the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, and a played a game with them in 2018-19.
“My brothers liked to shoot on me in the street,” Gascon says.
Growing up, she always played on boys teams. It wasn’t until Eve was invited to Team Quebec and Team Canada events that she joined girls teams. With the 2019-20 U-18 Canadian team, Gascon won a silver medal. She was 3-1-0 in the event with a .938 save percentage and 1.39 goals-against.
“It was my first world junior tournament in my life and it was very nice,” Gascon says. “The team was great and the experience was good. Also, it was my first camp in English, so it was nice to meet all the girls.”
Gascon’s English is impeccable, so no worries there. She will be going to university in English when Gascon joins the NCAA University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s team in the fall of 2023.
Gascon believes she will study psychology, but isn’t certain yet of her major.
As she continues to progress, with her Cegep team and this opportunity in the QMJHL, Gascon will try to emulate her two goaltending heroes: Carey Price and Charline Labonte.
“For boys (hockey), Carey Price is my idol,” Gascon says of the Montreal Canadiens’ superstar. “I always wanted to be like him. I like how he plays, and how calm he is in the net.
“For girls, Charline Labonte is my model. I want to be like her. Off the ice, she is a very good person, she is always there for me and I want to follow in her footsteps in hockey and in life.”
Labonte first reached out to Gascon when Eve first played midget AAA hockey. For a time, Labonte was Gascon’s psychologist.
“I stopped because I didn’t think I needed a psychologist any more, but we stayed in touch,” Gascon says.
Labonte was one of the coaches when Gascon participated in the Caroline Ouellette Girls Hockey Celebrations tournament.
Now 39, Labonte helped pave the way for Gascon, as the first woman to earn a victory in a CHL game, while with the QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst Titan, more than 20 years ago. Labonte went on to a decorated goaltending career in the women’s game and was a four-time Olympic gold medallist for Canada.
Gascon has similar dreams to play for Canada at the Olympics.
“I hope to be with the national team next season, or next year,” Gascon says. “I want to be there soon. I want to go to the Olympics, that is my biggest goal.”
A career in professional hockey could also be in the cards for Gascon, as the womens’ game in North America continues to make big strides.
One thing at a time. This afternoon in Gatineau, Gascon will take another huge step when she pulls on an Olympiques jersey for a regular season QMJHL game. Ready, if needed.