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(Selwynne Hawkins / The McGill Tribune)

In conversation with Katia Clement-Heydra

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In her first year with the Martlet hockey team, forward Katia Clement-Heydra was named RSEQ rookie of the year, tallying 26 points to help her team capture their third national championship. After such a successful rookie campaign, Clement-Heydra only got better, ultimately cementing herself as one of the most talented players in Martlet history. She spent all four seasons top-three on the RSEQ points leaderboard and was twice named a first-team conference all-star. To top off her illustrious McGill career, Clement-Heydra was awarded the Brodrick Trophy (Canadian Interuniversity Sport female hockey player of the year) in her senior year after leading the Martlets to her second national championship.

Clement-Heydra is no stranger to success, and her many accomplishments at the university level set her up to transition smoothly into the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) in 2015. The CWHL has been around since 2007, and Clement-Heydra was drafted in the league’s ninth season by Les Canadiennes de Montréal. She sat down with The McGill Tribune to discuss her path to the pros.

“McGill prepared me well for the [CWHL],” Clement-Heydra said. “[At McGill], we played a quick game, which was quite structured, and that was a style that was needed in the league.  [As a Canadienne], you are playing against women now, who are much stronger, who skate faster and move the puck quicker. It does feel you have to start again. You’re like a baby, but playing at McGill helped a lot.”

In Clement-Heydra’s first year, the Canadiennes franchise went through a rebranding process that included affiliation with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, who now provide resources and marketing support to Les Canadiennes. Furthermore, they adopted the Habs’ classic branding, which helped to popularize the women’s game in Montreal.

“I think in the past three years in Montreal the [women’s] game has grown,” Clement-Heydra said. “The deal with the Habs helped a lot.”

She highlighted the importance of encouraging girls’ involvement in hockey and similar sports from an early age, in order to foster interest throughout their lives.

“Ringette is still [a big sport] in Montreal and getting girls to play hockey [and similar sports] will help grow the game,” Clement-Heydra said. “I think a lot more girls feel welcome to the play and see that they can go places playing hockey.”

The CWHL has also come a long way in 10 years in terms of paying players, attracting top talent, and expanding as far as China with two inclusion of the HC Kunlun Red Star and the Vanke Rays.

“The league has more parity than it ever has had,” Clement-Heydra said. “The expansion of the league has helped attract higher-end talent.”

Even after winning a Clarkson cup—the trophy awarded to the CWHL champions every year—this past season with the Canadiennes, she still appreciates her time at McGill.

“The first year at McGill was a dream come true, winning a championship all without losing a game that year,” Clement-Hydra said. “We had a veteran team with Olympians […. But] winning a championship in my fourth year was very rewarding, especially by winning in double OT. It made it better that we lost in the RSEQ finals that year and still came back [to win nationals]. We really earned it that year.”

Clement-Heydra has played with many great players over the years, but four specific teammates have stuck out to her over her career.

“I [have] loved playing with Charline Labonte and Ann-Sophie Bettez who both play on the Canadiennes with me after playing together at McGill,” Clement-Heydra said. “Also Cathy Chartrand, who is on the Canadiennes, and Gabrielle Davidson, who I played with on the Martlets.”

Alongside this contingent of prestigious Martlet hockey alumni, Clement-Heydra has continued to impress in the CWHL. At such a formative point in the league’s short history, she is hopeful that the CWHL will continue to drive development of women’s hockey.

“I don’t doubt that the women’s game will continue to grow, especially with all the success we have had internationally,” Clement-Heydra said. “People take notice and that will only lead to better things for women’s hockey.”

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