“I loved looking out and seeing all of the important people that I have in my life here tonight celebrating this with me.”
Laura Quesnel had tears in her eyes throughout nearly the entire program of the Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday evening.
Quesnel is the president of the Prince Albert Northern Bears. According to several speeches that night, she’s been influential on the lives of young female hockey athletes.
That’s not just in the sport itself, but leaving them with memories to look back on and cherish.
“I loved looking out and seeing all of the important people that I have in my life here tonight celebrating this with me. It was incredible, it really was,” she said.
The Prince Albert Council of Women hosted the induction ceremony to coincide with International Women’s Day, which was on Sunday. Every year since 2004, based on nominations, the group inducts a woman who’s made an impact on the city and beyond.
Not only has Quesnel served as the Bears’ president since the organization’s formation 14 years ago, she’s been an avid volunteer. This includes being on the committee to bring the Esso Cup National Female Midget Championship to Prince Albert.
“When people talk about hockey in Prince Albert, we mentioned the Raiders, the Mintos and now the Northern Bears are mentioned. You’ve brought the provincial championship to the city, and you beat Saskatoon. That was the best,” said Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick with a laugh.
“I know one of your players is going to make the Olympics and bring us a gold medal.”
Aside from being the first person you see at a Bears game, Quesnel puts in extra time to make her players feel like family.
“Every year, I put together the whole year in a scrapbook for the girls to take home: pictures, exciting events, silly things that happened,” said Quesnel.
“It’s very important to me that when girls become a part of our team…that they not only grow as young women, excel at school or excel as athletes, that they create these memories that will last them a lifetime.”
This is the first time the Women’s Hall of Fame inductee has a sports background, according to the Council of Women’s president Patricia Leson.
A painting called ‘Fabric of a Nation’ was included on a display of all of Prince Albert’s inductees. It’s also in the National Council of Women’s Hall of Fame in Ottawa.
“It’s the interweaving of all of the different scarves and of the ethnicities in Canada,” said Leson.
“This is our National Council of Women’s masterpiece, so to speak, that we particularly wanted made and so when you look at all of the people in here, they are indicative of the many scarves that we have.”
Dr. Lalita Malholtra, who was inducted in 2005, and her husband Talik were the first northern Saskatchewan maternal and pediatric physician team.
In 2013, the Council of Women selected Prince Albert police Sgt. Rhonda Meakin.
Both of these fields, along with others over the years, have traditionally been male-dominated, said Leson.
Quesnel highlights yet another woman excelling in a field you’d traditionally associate with men.
“Women are so totally surprised that they’re being honoured because so often they’re used to just doing things and nobody saying ‘Hey, thank you.’ They’re often just so touched and taken aback,” emphasized Leson.
The induction ceremony on Thursday was sponsored by Before It Happens, a Catholic Family Services research project aiming to deter gender-based violence.
The project’s lead researcher, Chad Nilson, said often we need to change our views of women.
“Everyone in this room knows that whether it’s a mother or a sister or a wife or a grandmother, beside every strong man is that stronger woman, and the question that we seldom but should ask more often is what is behind that stronger woman?” he questioned.
“My guess and my belief is behind every strong woman is the memory of a girl knocking the wind out of herself tobogganing, but then climbing right back up and going up that hill and sliding down again,” said Nilson.
“Tonight, especially, behind a strong woman is the triumph of female leadership in a once male-dominated hockey town and bringing in a world class tournament to show all of us what women can do.”