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Ice Hockey Worlds: French women on the road to professionalization

Lore Baudrit did the math: Wednesday, April 5, at 11 a.m. (5 p.m. French time), against Finland, in Brampton (Canada), she will start the thirteenth ice hockey world championship of her career. His first as captain of the France team; the second in the history of the Bleues in the elite, the first division, which brings together the ten best nations.

The 30-year-old, whose first shots in selection date back to 2008, was already an adventure in Espoo, Finland, in 2019, where the Tricolores had already been familiar with the heights of their sport, before being relegated to the second level at the outcome of the competition. “I remember, when I was 15-16 years old, that the former members of the group said to me one day: “We are going to play in the elite, that is the objective, with the Olympic Games”says the attacker. I built my career around that. »

Today, the French hockey team approaches this meeting with the best nations in all lucidity. “It’s not a bit surreal anymore, like when I was young. By validating a first passage in the elite, in 2018, the dream has become reality: we have already done it. Now the next step is to successfully hold on to this division. »

So what does it matter if the French present themselves in Canada with a largely renewed workforce, where many girls will taste the intoxication of a World Cup for the first time. Several executives have decided to put the skates away after the coronation at the Division 1A World Championships (2e international level), at the end of April 2022, in Angers, under the eyes of more than 3,580 spectators – a record crowd for a women’s hockey match in France. “We had a big turn-over, eight players retired last year [l’une d’elles, Athéna Locatelli, est depuis revenue dans le groupe] »explains Lore Baudrit.

A first day before going on the ice

“In the history of this team, we always operate in four-year cycles, which are linked to qualification for the Games”, argues Christine Duchamp, national technical director (DTN) of the French Ice Hockey Federation (FFHG). Player then coach of Les Bleues (2005-2012), this pioneer of the discipline in France is above all aware of the difficulties faced by female hockey players, which lead many of them to put their sticks away prematurely.

Read also: Ice hockey, “it’s fun”… according to French internationals!

“In past years, we always had an average age of 20 in the France team. The players left at the time of their professional insertionshe explains. We have partly succeeded in aging the team. Hockey is becoming “professional”. It remains very precarious, but there are still some girls who manage to live more or less without working too much on the side, helped by the clubs, who pay their rent or pay them a small salary allowing them to prolong their career. »

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