Ouellette: “It’s a huge honour”
by Lucas AYKROYD|20 JUN 2023
Caroline Ouellette, a Team Canada legend with four Olympic gold medals, was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on 28 May, 2023 in Tampere, Finland.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Caroline Ouellette didn’t start playing hockey until she was nine years old. But as the 44-year-old Canadian Olympic legend observed in her 2023 IIHF Hall of Fame induction speech in Tampere, Finland: “It doesn’t matter when you start, it’s how fast you’re able to catch up.”
In hindsight, Ouellette can safely be said to have not only caught up but also surpassed the vast majority of her peers. Out of all Olympic women’s hockey players who have appeared in four Olympics, the talented Montreal-born forward is the only one to have won the gold medal all four times (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014).

Growing up in an era where visible female hockey role models were hard to come by, Ouellette idolized the Montreal Canadiens. But after watching the inaugural 1990 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Ottawa, she found a new heroine in Canadian attacker France St-Louis.

Ouellette played her first Women’s Worlds in 1999 in Espoo, and in a 16-year national team career, she would bring home six gold medals and six silver medals.

Her speech included shout-outs to such longtime teammates as Cassie Campbell, Vicky Sunohara, Jayna Hefford, Jennifer Botterill, and Marie-Philip Poulin.

Ouellette’s on-ice longevity was no accident, as the 180-cm, 89-kg attacker dedicated herself to training and fitness. The 2003 NCAA champion with the University of Minnesota-Duluth and four-time CWHL title winner with Montreal has continued to pass on her knowledge and experience as a coach.

In addition to collaborating with Julie Chu – a four-time U.S. Olympian and Ouellette’s spouse – behind the bench of the Concordia Stingers in Canadian university hockey, Ouellette has served as an assistant coach on three Canadian Women’s Worlds teams (2019, 2022, 2023).

IIHF.com caught up with Ouellette after her induction.

How does it feel to be inducted?


It’s a huge honour. You don’t think this could happen when you start playing. When you start on the national team, you’re just trying to make the team for years, to have as much success as you can with your team.

I loved every minute that I played for Team Canada, every international tournament. For me, there was never too much hockey, practices, or training sessions. So I feel very fortunate that I found that love for the game. It led me to have dreams and goals to pursue. To receive this recognition with incredible people that have been builders, athletes and referees is something very special.

What stands out from your four Olympic gold medal runs?


Your first one you never forget! I was so nervous before the 2002 Olympic final on U.S. soil. We had lost eight straight games to the Americans before that game. And then we got a game filled with penalties. That final was instrumental in making me want to go back to the Olympics and become a player that would play in every situation.

Seeing the veteran leadership we had on that 2002 team was truly career-changing. So in Torino in 2006, I was already a young veteran and a team leader. That experience was also remarkable

In 2010, playing the Vancouver Olympics at home, that’s a dream come true for any athlete. I always remember the crowds in Vancouver, walking around the city, and winning on home ice. A few days later, we watched Sidney Crosby score the winning goal against the U.S. in overtime. That Olympics was really special, hard to beat.

Four years later in Sochi, it was just a remarkable ending to a gold medal where we were trailing almost to the end. We tied the game with only a few seconds left and won in overtime. So these were four incredible, different journeys.

You were known as a playmaker, and you’re second in all-time Women’s Worlds assists (45) behind Wickenheiser. But what do you remember about scoring the 5-4 overtime winner versus the U.S. in Burlington in 2012?


I ended up under the pile of players! [laughs] Usually you end up somewhere at the top and the goalie is underneath. I remember that feeling of incredible weight, cheers, and screams.

That was a crazy tournament. We lost our opener 9-2 to the U.S. and no one gave us a chance. But we regrouped. We had a tough and difficult conversation and everyone was dialed in and ready to go. The final was a fast, physical battle.

On the winner, I got a great pass from Meghan Agosta with Tessa Bonhomme driving the net. It was probably the most exciting goal that I was fortunate enough to score. It felt unreal.

Being here in Finland, what are your thoughts on Finnish captain and longtime rival Jenni Hiirikoski?


One of the most dominant defenders that our game has ever seen and an incredible athlete. She’s always looking to perfect little parts of her game and her teammates speak really highly of her. You can tell she’s a great leader. We would try to make sure we wore her down because she’d play over 30 minutes every game, and do it really well, with or without the puck. She’s still one of the most complete and dangerous players ever.

How would you describe your strengths as a coach?


Well, I absolutely love getting to work with Team Canada under the leadership of Gina Kingsbury, who I played with for many years. She’s an incredible leader and brings our staff together. Troy Ryan is our head coach right now, and very few coaches I’ve worked with have been so open to hear everyone’s feedback, while giving great direction. I can be open and honest. It has been a great learning opportunity for me.

I love to study the game, study video, have one-on-one conversations and help players with little details of their games. You want to see beneath the surface and see how they’re really doing individually. When you’re happy, you play better. That’s an important part of what you do as a coach.

You and Julie have two daughters, five-year-old Liv and three-year-old Tessa. How would you feel if they announce they want to play hockey?


For sure, it would be amazing. As a parent, you hope they find a passion for anything, whether it’s sports, writing, or singing. My oldest loves to sing and dance. If she finds something she loves as much as I love hockey, that’ll be the most fulfilling for me. Hockey has transformed my life and given me a purpose. But we plan on having them discover as many things as possible and having them figure out what they love the most.