Off-Ice News, Women's Hockey

Marie-Philip Poulin breaks into NHL

This article is part of the 2022-2023 printed “Hockey Edition” that will be available on campus Friday, Sept. 30 and at both men’s and women’s opening nights. Be sure to get your copy!

Marie-Philip Poulin has been a force to be reckoned with since lacing up her hockey skates for the first time at five years old. The Beauceville, Quebec native made a prominent mark in Terrier history while playing for the Boston University women’s hockey team from 2010 to 2015. She has also exhibited her first-class talent at every level of the sport since leaving Commonwealth Avenue, taking significant strides in the effort to grow the women’s game. 

During her time at Walter Brown Arena, Poulin brought the BU program to new heights. Serving as assistant captain her sophomore year, co-captain her junior year and captain her senior year, Poulin led the scarlet and white to four consecutive Hockey East championship titles and two NCAA final appearances. By the end of her BU career she topped the charts as the team’s all-time leader in points with 181, in goals with 81 and in assists with 100. 

Poulin’s work ethic strengthened her success after college as she continued to be an integral part of the Canadian national team, which she originally joined at 16 years old. She scored in three consecutive Olympic final games, two of which team Canada brought home the gold. Most notably, Poulin wore the hero’s cape in the 2014 Sochi games when the captain scored the last-minute game-tying goal as well as the game-winning overtime tally to secure team Canada’s fourth straight gold medal. 

The tried and true competitor also racked up two IIHF world championship gold medals and two Clarkson Cups in the CWHL with the Montreal Canadiennes. Poulin has earned a spot atop the list of best women hockey players due to her high level of leadership on each and every roster she has skated for. Now 31 years old, she has elongated a career in a sport that has far fewer options for their female talents than male –– and she’s not going anywhere. 

In June 2022, the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens added Poulin to their staff as a player development consultant. The role entails a detail-oriented focus on skill-improvement for both individual players and the team in general. Poulin will work on the ice and in video sessions with the Habs while still pursuing her own playing career. 

Poulin broke into a league that has long been a boys club and proved that there’s more than enough room for women in the professional game. Her hire has come during a time where the NHL is beginning to recognize the lack of diversity — in all forms –– in their organization and is adding female staff to different levels of team organizations. 

In October 2021, Katie Guay broke the boundaries as the first woman referee in the AHL, the NHL’s primary developmental league. As with female players, female officials have to look for opportunities outside of the major men’s leagues. Guay has paved a new path for change as she dropped the puck for one of the top hockey associations in the country. 

Women have continued to push the envelope beyond officiating. The Vancouver Canucks named Emilie Castonguay assistant general manager in January 2022 –– the first time in franchise history a woman has held this position. In July 2022, Kate Madigan was promoted to assistant general manager of the New Jersey Devils following her work in their hockey operations since 2017. 

Poulin’s new role fuels the fight for representation in hockey, but it is just the beginning. In March 2022, the NHL estimated that there were about 100 women in hockey operations across the league –– and that is just behind the scenes, not on the ice. If women hockey players want to continue their skating careers in the United States, they have two “premiere” options: the Premiere Hockey Federation or the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association. The separated format of the leagues presents challenges in pulling in fan engagement and revenue.

Additionally, the NHL has a very detached relationship with both leagues as opposed to sports like basketball, where the NBA and WNBA work hand-in-hand in an attempt to elevate their female athletes. Someone of Poulin’s accolades in the NHL –– say, Sidney Crosby –– has tens of millions of dollars in the bank, sponsorships and endless open doors after retirement in the hockey world. Meanwhile, Poulin does not have that same level of luxury.

Despite the discrepancies between the women’s and men’s game, Poulin has excelled in all facets of the sport and will no doubt be a force for change as she enters this next stage of her journey. Through her hard work, young girls can recognize their power and set their goals higher than before. It was evident to all who watched Poulin in a BU jersey that she was something special –– the Terrier legend left an expectation for excellence in her wake. 

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