Montreal’s new Premier Hockey Federation franchise came into the league making a significant statement with its first seven signings. The message was clear - this team plans to contend from day one.
Montreal’s inaugural signing group included forwards Ann-Sophie Bettez, Kim Deschênes, Jade Downie-Landry, Alexandra Labelle, Sarah Lefort, and Kristina Shanahan, as well as defender Brigitte Laganière.
The signings also mark the first group exodus from the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association to the PHF as Bettez, Deschênes, Labelle, and Lefort were all members of the PWHPA last season.
“This is a very exciting step forward for the foundation of the PHF in Montreal and across the province of Quebec,” said Kevin Raphaël, Montreal team president in a news release. “This group is a great mix of exuberant youth and veteran experience, players with character, and who have led their previous teams to success.”
Bettez was a member of Canada’s senior national team at the 2019 women’s World Championship. She has also won the USports player of the year, was the CWHL rookie of the year in 2013, and won the 2017 Clarkson Cup as a member of the Montreal Canadiennes.
Deschênes also brings professional experience from the former CWHL, where she played with the Montreal Stars and Canadiennes and won the 2017 Clarkson Cup. She’s also a former USports national champion with the University of Montreal. Lefort, who also won the Clarkson Cup with the Canadiennes, won gold with Canada at the 2012 women’s U-18 World Championship before starring for Boston University. The final PWHPA export, Labelle, also represented Canada, winning gold at the 2014 women’s U-18 World Championship. The 25-year-old has played in the PWHPA since graduating from USports hockey, where she played with the University of Montreal Carabins.
The three remaining signees - Downie-Landry, Shanahan and Laganière - are all professional hockey rookies. Downie-Landry was this year’s USports player of the year after leading all Canadian university players in scoring with 14 goals and 27 points in 15 games with McGill. Laganière was a member of this year’s USports national champion Concordia Stingers and was an all-Canadian member during her college career. Finally, Kristina Shanahan recently completed her NCAA career with the University of Vermont, scoring 33 points in 34 games.
“We have the best talent in the world, I want to build from here and see the next generation sees that,” president Kevin Raphaël said at the team’s formal expansion announcement, referring to his intention to build a team from local talent. With these seven signings, Raphaël accomplished just that as all seven players hail from Quebec.
Montreal plans to have a team name and logo in the coming weeks. The PHF’s seventh franchise will play their home games across Quebec in their first season.