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Desrochers Ready to Lead Manitoba Women Into NAHC

This is Julie Desrochers’ final year of eligibility at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship. At the rate she’s going, she’d probably become a lifer if they don’t make her stop.

Of course, it probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have Desrochers at the NAHC permanently. After all, she was the 2011 Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council Female Athlete of the Year and is a Gen 7 spokesman and role model.

Julie Desrochers

Julie Desrochers

Desrochers, the Metis star from Winnipeg who will be joined on this year’s Team Manitoba for the second time by her sisters Gabrielle and Roxane, has made the NAHC a family affair. And this year, when the tournament returns to Kahnawake, Que., on April 28, the Desrochers family will be looking to improve on last year’s bronze medal.

“I just love that tournament,” said Julie, who has played for Team Manitoba as a 15, 16, 17, 18 and now 19-year-old. “We just have so much fun. And the games are high paced and really intense.

“It was originally designed to be an under-22 tournament, but the organizers wanted the younger girls to be scouted by more colleges, so they’ve dropped a year off the event every year for the past three years. Next year, it will become an Under-18 tournament and that’s where it will probably stay, but this year, it’s under-19 so I’m in my final year of eligibility.”

Gabrielle Desrochers, Julie's sister

Gabrielle Desrochers, Julie’s sister

One can certainly understand how the organizers feel. This event has resulted in hundreds of young men and women receiving hockey scholarships to both CIS and NCAA schools. Female Team Manitoba players such Rachele Bosc (Manitoba), Skye Kelly and Sydney Burghardt (St. Cloud State), Tori Williams (University of North Dakota), Baillee Goodon (Oswego State), Brigette Lacquette (Minnesota-Duluth), Darion Bruyere (Mankato State), Pam McLeod (Wiscinsin-Superior) and Jessica Stott (Connecticut) have all gone on to become terrific university players.

Desrochers, however, wants to be a teacher and she’s found her spot as a student first at the University of Manitoba. She’s finishing her B.A. in Education and her goal is to teach K-Grade 4 at a French Emersion school.

For Desrochers, a Francophone Metis who grew up in St. Boniface with her parents, Cindy and Daniel, and her three younger sisters, Danielle, Gabrielle and Roxanne, playing hockey and studying harder than most is just part of any average day.

She attended elementary school at l’Ecole Tache and high school at College Louis Riel, both fully French schools.

Like so many Canadians, she learned to skate and play the game on an outdoor rink that her dad made in the backyard. She started her hockey career on an organized girls team when she was 11 and went on to play Double A with the Winnipeg East Saints and then Triple A with the Winnipeg Avros.

In the meantime, she also played basketball at Louis Riel and even coached her high school team.

She’s a certified Development 1 coach and she’s also been involved with many equipment drives, hockey camps and hockey schools. She’s even certified in emergency first aid and CPR levels A and B.

She’s also interested in art history and works at the St. Boniface Museum as a visitors services agent.

These days, Team Manitoba’s captain is playing for The Rage in the Manitoba Senior Women’s Hockey League and coaches the Winnipeg East Saints in PeeWee Double A and her old high school team at Louis Riel. She might be the busiest hockey player/coach in Manitoba.

Julie Desrochers (second from left) is ready to lead Team Manitoba again.

Julie Desrochers (second from left) is ready to lead Team Manitoba again.

“Yeah, I’m really busy,” she said with a laugh. “But I’d rather be busy than bored.”

She won’t be bored in Kahnawake, an admitted “fan” of the national aboriginal championships, she’ll enjoy her second year at the tournament with sister Roxane, a goalie, and her third year with sister Gabrielle, a forward.

The 45-game NAHC tournament for men and women will be held April 28-May at the Kahnawake Sports Complex and in Brossard, Que. Officially, the NAHC is a minor hockey Championship for male and female players who are Bantam and Midget aged players. In order to be eligible to play in the Championship a player must be of Aboriginal decent — Status or non-status First Nation, Metis, Inuit or Dene.

“Last year, Roxane was the backup goalie so this year, she’s expected to be the starter and she’s going to have to be ready for the challenge,” Julie said. “Gabrielle knows that these games are played at a very high pace and they’re intense. The games are also a lot more physical. It will be a challenge, but I think that’s obvious.

“We will have a young team this year, but also a very talented one. Last year, we won the bronze medal and this year’s team is certainly capable of repeating, but they will have to play well consistently and get accustomed to different systems. In order to be successful, you have to be prepared and focused.”

Now in her fifth year with Team Manitoba, Julie Desrochers has proven that she’s prepared and focused – at least, most of the time. In late April, Julie and Team Desrochers will be expected to be the leaders heading to the NAHC.

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