Maude Poulin-Labelle has yet to play her first professional game, but her family is already making jokes about her young career.
The 24-year-old Poulin-Labelle has technically already been on three different professional rosters without a game to show for it.
Her latest move was from PWHL Montreal to PWHL Toronto. Before that, she had signed with Connecticut of the PHF.
This past week, Montreal elected to put Poulin-Labelle on their reserve, which made her available to the other five teams in the league if there was interest to include her on the active roster.
Toronto general manager Gina Kingsbury is also GM of the senior women’s national team and had Poulin in camp last summer, so she is well aware of what the young defenceman can do for a team. She immediately placed a call to gauge Poulin-Labelle’s interest in being on Toronto’s active roster.
The two discussed what they thought her fit on the team would be like and Kingsbury took the weekend to mull it over.
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As Poulin-Labelle pointed out, it wasn’t just herself who would be affected by such a move.
“Taking a new player in means putting another player out, so it was definitely something she (Kingsbury) took seriously,” Poulin-Labelle said. “It shows me she cares about every player, cares about the team culture, so after talking we both decided Toronto would be a great fit for me.”
That call occurred on Friday, but it wasn’t until Sunday morning that Kingsbury made up her mind and brought Poulin-Labelle to Toronto. It created a bit of domino effect on the Toronto roster and around the league as well with Mellissa Channell, Toronto’s 10th-round pick and another defenceman, moved to Toronto’s reserve, at which point Minnesota swooped in and claimed Channell for its active roster.
That opened another spot on Toronto’s reserve, allowing Toronto to retain camp invite Jessica Kondas on its list.
Poulin-Labelle said she is extremely grateful for the opportunity in Toronto, but admitted there is a little bit of a bittersweet taste for having to leave home to do so.
Her family, which resides in Sherbrooke, Que., was very excited to have her playing nearby. Her brother even purchased season tickets for the Montreal franchise in anticipation of seeing a lot more of his sister as she made the jump from the U.S. college ranks right into the pros.
Poulin-Labelle isn’t sure whether she’ll have to reimburse him, but she was adamant that joining Toronto is the right decision for her.
“What comes first for me and my family is hockey and to be in a place where we see me getting better and improve,” she said. “I think the way the outcome was, that is Toronto and I’m really excited for that.”
In addition to playing for the familiar tandem of Kingsbury and head coach Troy Ryan from the national team program, Poulin-Labelle is excited to share a dressing room with four women who play the same position and have won Olympic gold for Canada.
Poulin-Labelle said it was only a week ago when she and a few of her Montreal teammates were watching Toronto’s Renata Fast work her magic on the ice at the Utica pre-season camp and marvelling at her complete game.
“Renata Fast is someone I have always looked up to and I like the way she plays,” Poulin-Labelle said. “I think Fast’s game is really complete. She skates the puck well, she’s really physical and she can bring a lot of offence. I would definitely like one day to play like her, but I think what I need to improve is my physicality.”
Poulin Labelle is listed at 5-foot-6 and a slight 130 pounds, but has every intent of adding that physical element to her game.
It was only a couple of short years ago that Poulin-Labelle was asking herself what she would do for work once college was over.
The PWHL came around at the perfect time for her and a number of her fellow NCAA graduates.
“We all feel lucky that we are getting in the year we graduated,” she said. “That’s just insane for me. There are a lot of people who put the work in (with previous leagues) and didn’t get paid or didn’t get to play. I think we’re all just grateful. There are times I can’t believe I’m going to work and it’s hockey (that is my job).”