Miss Labonté spoke with Bill Beacon of The Canadian Press, and Mr. Beacon's article was published today. It appears that the 34 year-old goalkeeper is already planning out the next stage in her life as she is returning to school to become a chef! How cool is that?
Admittedly, the hockey fan in me selfishly hates this idea as I want to see Charlene Labonté play forever, but no player outside of Gordie Howe has played into his or her years of collecting a pension. The fact that Miss Labonté already has plans for what she wants to do after she finally hangs up the skates and pads is admirable, and I want to see her do just as well as a chef as she did as a hockey player. Perhaps she has a future on the Food Network?
It will be interesting to see how she juggles her schedule this season. As per Mr. Beacon's article, Miss Labonté is already enrolled at the Ecole des Metiers de la Restauration et du Tourisme de Montreal, but she will still fulfill her Canadian national team duties, her CWHL duties with Les Canadiennes de Montreal, and her work one day per week as a goaltending coach at McGill University where she went to school. Miss Labonté's already-busy schedule gets a little crazier!
The part of the article that ripped my heart of my chest, however, was right at the end.
Labonte has yet to decide whether to play beyond this season, although she has ruled out playing in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.With no Labonté at the 2018 Winter Olympics, I feel like a player I grew up with and idolized is already gone. There's a hole in my fandom, and it doesn't feel right. I agree with Miss Labonté in that there are a pile of amazing young Canadian goalies coming up - Maschmeyer, Genevieve Lacasse, Ann-Renée Desbiens - it was the tandem of Shannon Szabados and Charlene Labonté with whom I grew up.
"It's tough because I still love it," she said. "But I'm not getting any younger and the young goalies are pushing on the national team.
"It started last year with Emerance Maschmeyer and she was lights-out amazing. So there is competition there. The reality is that I've been there for 15 or 16 years. That's why I like to take it one year at a time and see where I'm at and analyse how I feel."
When you consider that Miss Labonté has earned four gold medals at the Winter Olympics plus a pile of other accolades, there's no doubt that she has had a career that most would envy. She's not done yet, but this 2018 announcement makes it feel as though the end is near despite her indicating that she's keeping an open mind about playing in the future.
And let's not forget that chefs have to be in the kitchen to be able to practice their trade and continue to learn. She has already been working part-time at Les Demoiselles under chef and owner Vanessa Trahan. Trahan is a very reputable chef in the Montreal food scene, and she mentored under chef Chuck Hughes, who is a Food Network Canada celebrity and a highly-regarded chef and co-owner of Garde Manger and Le Bremner. In other words, Miss Labonté is learning from one of Montreal's best young chefs!
I have no doubt that Charlene Labonté will take to cooking as well as she has taken to goaltending. She worked hard to reach the pinnacle of her sport, and I have a sense that she will give the same effort in her soon-to-be full-time chosen profession. I'll still be a fan of Canadian netminder for as long as she plays, and I applaud her for thinking about the future now as opposed to later. Her master's degree in sports psychology shows she's a smart cookie. Perhaps she'll be making delicious cookies in the future?
If nothing else, Charlene Labonté has given me a reason to visit Montreal if and when she moves into the culinary world. How many times can you say you had a meal prepared for you by a four-time Olympic gold medalist? Best of luck in your culinary adventure at school this year, Charlene, and keep stopping pucks for as long as you can!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!