Canadian Olympic gold medalists build foundation in La Belle Province
TORONTO, ON (September 7, 2023) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) today announced the first three players to sign free agent contracts with the league’s Montreal franchise are goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, and forwards Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey. The trio of Canadian Olympians have all agreed to terms on three-year deals for the 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26 PWHL seasons. Salary terms will not be disclosed, as per the PWHL Players’ Association.
“I couldn't envision a more exceptional group of individuals and athletes to represent Montreal,” said Danièle Sauvageau, General Manager of PWHL Montreal. “We are creating an environment that fosters both athletic and personal growth, ensuring that our athletes are drawn to it as a place where they can thrive. These three players exemplify a winning spirit and are committed to a culture of continuous success. We’re excited to play in front of fans who have always shown unwavering support for the teams in Montreal.”
Desbiens has been rock solid between-the-pipes when representing Canada, including April’s IIHF Women’s World Championship where she was named Best Goaltender, and backstopping Canada to Olympic gold in 2022 where she started five games with a 1.80 goals-against-average and a .940 save percentage. The 29-year-old from Clermont, QC first donned the maple leaf in 2011 as a member of the U18 team and has performed on the highest stages with silver at the 2018 Olympics, plus a total of four World Championship medals (2 Gold, 2 Silver) to her name. Desbiens had one of the most prolific NCAA careers in the crease at the University of Wisconsin posting a career .955 save percentage, 99 wins, and a record 55 shutouts. She was a top-three finalist for the 2015-16 Patty Kazmaier Award as a junior, then won the prestigious honour as a senior in 2016-17. Her pro career includes a 2012 Clarkson Cup title with the Montreal Stars, and competition across the PWHPA from 2019-21 and again in 2022-23.
“It's an honour and a privilege to be part of this historic moment for women's hockey in Montreal,” said Desbiens. “I'm proud to be able to play the sport I love in my home province and the city I've called home for the past few years. I can't wait to begin this adventure with Laura and Marie-Philip and to make this franchise an example of excellence both on the ice and in the community.”
“Ann is a fierce competitor who maintains her composure when it matters most,” said Sauvageau. “She is a dedicated student of the game, driven to become the best in the world, and this relentless pursuit is a key factor in her success.”
Poulin is one of Montreal—and Canada’s— most well-known athletes and the first women’s hockey player in history to win the honourable Northern Star Award as Canada’s athlete of the year. Often referred to as ‘Captain Clutch’, the 32-year-old is the only player in women’s hockey history to score goals in three Olympic gold medal games, twice notching game-winners, including the iconic overtime ‘Golden Goal’ in Sochi, 2014. Poulin has been a member of Canada’s National Team since 2007 and captain since 2015. The native of Beauceville, QC is a four-time Olympic medalist (3 Gold, 1 Silver) and 11-time World Championship medalist (3 Gold, 7 Silver, 1 Bronze). At Boston University she captained the Terriers and was a top-3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior in 2015. She uniquely played two CWHL seasons before NCAA, suiting up for the Montreal Stars as a 16-year-old and winning 2008 Rookie of the Year and the 2009 Clarkson Cup. She resumed her pro career in 2015 with Les Canadiennes, winning three MVP and scoring titles in four years, and a second championship in 2017. Poulin joined the PWHPA from 2019-21 and led the circuit in scoring in 2022-23 on her way to the Top Forward Award.
“This professional women’s hockey league is the outcome of years of work from key players in the hockey community,” said Poulin. “We have achieved a very important milestone, not only for our generation of players but for all the girls who aspire to play in our professional league one day. We now have the opportunity to make a living playing the game we love. I am proud of what we have accomplished and especially grateful to be part of the history of women’s hockey as a member of the Montreal team. This city lives for hockey, just like me. This is where I wanted to live my dream.”
“Marie-Philip is always a true leader of every group she encounters,” said Sauvageau. “Her work ethic stands unparalleled. She possesses a multitude of facets to her game that elevate her to the status of the ultimate competitor, both on and off the ice.”
Stacey joins PWHL Montreal from Kleinburg, ON where she developed as a dominant power forward. A two-time Olympic Medalist (1 Gold, 1 Silver) and five-time World Championship medalist (2 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze), the 29-year-old debuted for Hockey Canada in 2011 for its U18 team, helping win two straight medals (1 Gold, 1 Silver). Her collegiate career was played at Dartmouth University where she captained the Big Green as a senior. Stacey turned pro upon graduation in 2016, drafted third overall to the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder where she earned Rookie of the Year honours. Upon her return from the 2018 Olympics, she helped the Markham Thunder win the 2018 Clarkson Cup and scored the overtime-winning goal in the championship. Competing with the PWHPA from 2019-21 and again in 2022-23, after the 2022 Olympics, Stacey was the fourth-leading scorer last season.
“It is an absolute honour to sign with Montreal and officially be a part of the PWHL,” said Stacey. “This has been something we all have been dreaming about and collectively working towards for over four years now, and to be a part of the beginning of this new chapter is truly something I will remember forever. Allez Montreal!”
“Laura has become an offensive powerhouse in the women’s game, consistently expanding and developing her craft,” said Sauvageau. “Her speed remains the X-factor, consistently making her hard to play against.”
The PWHL player selection process officially opened on September 1 with an initial free agency period that continues through Sept. 10. Teams are permitted to sign three players to Standard Player Agreements during this time. The 2023 PWHL Draft is scheduled for Sept. 18 where Montreal holds the sixth overall pick.
Fans can stay connected to the PWHL and register for email updates at thepwhl.com. Follow the new league on all social media platforms @thepwhlofficial plus all six new team accounts @pwhl_boston, @pwhl_minnesota, @pwhl_montreal, @pwhl_newyork, @pwhl_ottawa, and @pwhl_toronto.
PWHL Director of Communications