Kirsten Whelan

Les Canadiennes and the Case of the Missing Jeep

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Following Montreal's last practice ahead of the CWHL semifinals, a handful of players decided to bring their skates in to a favorite spot for a little pre-series prep work. One volunteered to make the trip on everyone's behalf, which is how five pairs of skates and plenty more sets of blades all wound up in one Jeep Wrangler on Thursday night.

Friday was a typical workday for Karell Emard, until the phone rang around 11:00 AM.

"Kax, my Jeep is gone."

Puck drop for game one between Les Canadiennes and the Markham Thunder was set for 7:30 PM, and with only a few hours before players had to start making their way to the rink, suddenly six were without a crucial part of their equipment (and one, of course, without her car). Because losing the vehicle and skates alone wasn't enough, several had also thrown in all their spare blades.

Emard initially hauled an old pair of skates she'd worn in college out of storage -- from when she graduated in 2012. Emerance Maschmeyer found an old pair, too: "They had a little dust on them, but I made them work today." Sophie Brault planned a trip to Sports Rousseau to invest in a new set, while Hilary Knight managed to find a fresh pair hidden deep in a closet.

Knight then mobilized her relationship with Bauer to find a solution for Brault and Emard, the two non-national team players stuck in the predicament without much in the way of backup options. They wound up in demo skates that had already taken a few trips around the ice, and were a little broken in. When fully a quarter of the team has their skates stolen on a game day, though, it takes a village. J-P Riopel from Campus Sports was able to get the new pairs baked on short notice so they'd be as comfortable as possible, given the circumstances. Guillaume from Elite Blade profiled new blades for all who needed them, then got them to Laval in time. And everyone decided to just embrace the chaos.

"You can't control it, and it's almost more fun that way," said Maschmeyer, who posted a shutout in last night's Game 1 of the Clarkson Cup semifinals versus Markham. "You're going out there, things aren't perfect, so you're like, Let's just play. And there's no thinking about it."

Emard, for her part, started the match as a top-6 forward but was moved to defence after Erin Ambrose left the game with injury. The makeshift skates she was using were narrower than her usual pair, which made skating backwards a fun (read: painful) adventure.

"Nothing can come easy, huh?" joked associate head coach Caroline Ouellette. "I couldn't believe what had happened. All this put together, it's just another distraction and it's another reason I'm so proud of our team's performance. We were calm and concentrated."

Montreal managed to outshoot their opponents 34-13 despite the absence of captain Marie-Philip Poulin, injury to Ambrose, and a whirlwind of an afternoon. Everyone around the team, on and off the ice, had to step up to make the performance possible.

"And then we won, so it was all good!" Emard concluded.

(Except, y'know, the stolen Jeep.)

(Photo credit: Shanna Martin-Book/CWHL)

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