Charline Labonté’s time in Team Canada is coming to an end, as the goaltender told The Canadian Press she will not play in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Labonté has been a fixture in Canada’s crease for the last 16 years with her career beginning in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympics, where she was an alternate on the team that upset the United States for the gold. Every Olympic year since, from Turin to Vancouver to Sochi, she’s been part of Canada’s gold-winning squad.
The Les Canadiennes de Montréal goaltender has also seen two gold and five silver medals at women’s worlds championships over the years. In college, she led her team at McGill to three Canadian Interuniversity Sports (now U Sports) titles in five seasons.
"It's tough because I still love it," Labonté told The Canadian Press. “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.” she continued. “That's why I like to take it one year at a time and see where I'm at and analyze how I feel."
Pyeongchang 2018 isn’t the only big event where Canada will miss the veteran goaltender; she won’t be playing in the 2016 Four Nations Cup tournament, either. In the crease, Canada will see veteran Geneviève Lacasse, Erica Howe, and star rookie Emerance Maschmeyer, but no Labonté.
End of the road?
She hasn’t come out and said her career is done yet, but she has said the end is near, which begs the question: does that mean her CWHL career is coming to a close too?
When Labonté will retire from Les Canadiennes, the only CWHL team she’s ever played for, is still unknown. She's lost two consecutive Clarkson Cup championship games with the team, the only prize she hasn’t won in women’s hockey. After last year’s loss to the Calgary Inferno, it wasn’t certain that she would return to Les Canadiennes, but now that she has, it’s clear the Clarkson Cup is the prize she’s still chasing.
Now Labonté is starting to turn her attention to other career paths. In the same article from The Canadian Press, when asked about the cooking career Labonté is pursuing, she said "Now that I'm coming to the end of my hockey career, I just decided 'why not give it a try,' pursue that passion of mine and see if it's going to take me anywhere.”
She’ll begin classes at the École des métiers de la restauration et du tourisme de Montréal, one of Canada’s top culinary schools, in early November.