MONTREAL — The Canadian Women’s Hockey League team in Montreal will now be called Les Canadiennes.
The CWHL club formerly known as the Montreal Stars unveiled a new name, new logo and new marketing and promotions links to the NHL’s Canadiens at a Bell Centre news conference on Thursday.
The Canadiens had announced a partnership with the women’s team in March with an eye on finding a new name and look. It started with the Stars wearing jerseys similar to the Canadiens but with Montreal written across the front.
The new jerseys are also in the same red, white and blue as the NHL club, but with a large C with a star in it, which acknowledges the former team nickname.
“It’s very exciting,” said goalie Charline Labonte, a veteran of Canadian Olympic gold medal teams. “It’s like starting a new era.
“It’s very flattering to be associated with the Montreal Canadiens with the history they have. To have a similar name, I can’t imagine anything bad happening to us.”
The Canadiens will help the Canadiennes (the feminine case of Canadians in French) financially and give a boost to promotions and merchandise sales, selling their jerseys alongside those of Canadiens stars like P.K. Subban and Carey Price in their boutiques.
Canadiennes veteran Caroline Ouellet said that, as a child, she dreamed of playing for the Canadiens one day because no pro women’s leagues existed at the time. She hopes that the tie to one of the oldest and most famous teams in hockey will boost the women’s game in Quebec.
“The name will be easy for people to remember,” said Ouellette. “That’s one of our challenges.
“We want people to know we exist. So often I met people who didn’t even know we were called the Stars. Being associated with the Canadiens will be huge for our sport. I hope people will give us a chance and come see one of our games.”
The Montreal team won Clarkson Cups in 2009, 2011 and 2012, but Quebec, with about 7,000 female players, lags behind Ontario, with more than 35,000, in participation in women’s and girl’s hockey.
The Canadiennes will not be moved to the Bell Centre, but they hope to draw more than the few hundred who turn out to games at their home rink at the Etienne Desmarteau Centre in the city’s east end.
Kevin Gilmour, the Canadiens executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the Canadiennes may eventually move into a new rink expected to open in two years that the NHL club’s entertainment branch is building in the suburbs north of Montreal.
The CWHL has worked to build links between its clubs and NHL teams. The Calgary Flames are affiliated with the Calgary Inferno and the Toronto Furies, associated with the Maple Leafs, also have a rebranding planned for this week. The Boston Blades have a loose affiliation with the Bruins.
CWHL commissioner Branda Andress said the five-team league hopes to expand to six in coming years with more links to NHL clubs.
Les Canadiennes will wear the new jerseys for the first time in their home opener Oct. 17 against the Brampton Thunder.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press