The 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame induction is Nov. 13. This class includes Henrik Lundqvist, Tom Barrasso, Pierre Turgeon, Mike Vernon, Caroline Ouellette, Ken Hitchcock and Pierre Lacroix. Here staff writer Tom Gulitti profiles Ouellette.

Caroline Ouellette looks at her path to becoming the 10th female player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13 and considers herself fortunate.

"It's crazy to think about how late I started to play and the journey I was able to have and to be able to get this honor is hard to put words to," Ouellette said. "I feel very lucky and blessed. I get to see how proud and happy it makes my parents and just that in itself is also very, very special."

Ouellette grew up in Montreal dreaming of playing in the NHL for the Canadiens but didn't start playing hockey until she was 9 years old because her parents were initially concerned that she would be injured. They eventually gave in and became her biggest supporters with her mother, Nicole, buying her first pair of hockey skates and her father, Andre, signing her up for a boys' team and becoming her first coach.

After playing with boys until she was 16, Ouellette developed into a power forward whose combination of size (5-foot-11, 172 pounds) and skill made her force on Canada's national women's hockey team. She won four Olympic gold medals (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014), and six gold medals (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2012) and six silvers (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015) at the IIHF Women's World Championship.

In Ouellette's four Olympics, she had 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 20 games. In 12 world championship appearances, she had 68 points (23 goals, 45 assists) in 59 games. She retired in 2018 with 242 points (87 goals, 155 assists) in 220 games with the national women's team, third in its history.

"She was dominant," said Danielle Goyette, a teammate on Canada's 2002 and 2006 Olympic gold medal teams. "She was a good skater for her size. She was dominating with her size. She was physical. You could use her anywhere, first line to fourth line, and it would not affect her at all. She was always doing what needed to be done."

Ouellette's championship resume also includes winning the Clarkson Cup four times with the Montreal Stars/Canadiennes (2009, 2011, 2012, 2017) of the Canadian Women's Hockey League and an NCAA Division I title at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2003. She played 179 games in nine seasons in the CWHL (2008-2018), holds the league records for points (314) and assists (183) and is tied with Jayna Hefford for second in goals (131) behind former Montreal teammate Noemie Marin (132).

Caroline Ouellette becomes 10th female to make HOF

She remains third in Minnesota-Duluth history with 229 points (92 goals, 137 assists) in 97 games during her three seasons there (2002-2005).

Ouellette was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame and Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year. The 44-year-old will join Goyette (2017) Hefford (2018), Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Hayley Wickenheiser (2019), and Kim St.-Pierre (2020) from Canada, Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2014) from the United States and Riikka Sallinen (2022) from Finland among the female players in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

"The other women that have been honored were incredible hockey players, incredible people," Ouellette said. "Even during my career, it's not really something that was possible at the time or something I was thinking about. I was so in the moment, chasing the next championship and I was someone that wanted to win national team camp games just as much as I wanted to win the games against USA. Same thing in the CWHL. It was my focus, and I loved every second that I got to play, but you don't really think about what could come after."

Ouellette's competitiveness drove her throughout her career. Her wife, Julie Chu, experienced it as an opponent and a teammate, playing against her for the United States in four Olympics and numerous other international competitions, and with her for seven seasons for Montreal in the CWHL.

"The one thing I noticed whether I played against her or with her is what a competitor she is," Chu said. "She's one of those people that in all aspects of being elite in whatever she might be doing, she's trying to do the best that she can. So, whether it's it in off-ice training, the areas she was weak at, she embraced it, as opposed to, if she was weak at it, shying away from going it.

"I think that was a huge quality of hers because it allowed her to continue to grow and develop throughout her entire career."

Ouellette points to a chat with Canada national team veteran France St.-Louis following the 1999 IIHF World Championship as a pivotal moment in her career. She spoke little English at the time and looked up to St.-Louis, who was also French-Canadian.

"It was my first world championships, and it was her last and she was my roommate," Ouellette said. "I thank her for having the courage afterward to sit me down and telling me my fitness wasn't good enough. And she was right."

Motivated by that conversation, Ouellette worked hard to become one of Canada's best conditioned players that set the standard for many of her teammates.

"I think Caroline understood that if she wanted to stay, she needed to work a little harder, and this is when she became an athlete and that's why she played so many years on the national level," said 2002 Olympic team coach Daniele Sauvageau, who first coached Ouellette on Canada's under-19 team in 1996. "… She basically took her talent to the next level by working hard, especially making sure she was fit, and more than anybody else."

Ouellette wasn't selected to play in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where Canada lost the gold-medal game to the United States. Adding her size, strength and skill was one of the factors that helped Canada rebound to defeat the U.S. for gold at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.

Prior to that, Canada had lost eight consecutive games to the United States. Ouellette set the early tone by scoring the first goal 1:45 into the first period a 3-2 victory.

"The U.S. was a big team, and they were physical, and that four-year cycle between 1998 and 2002 that was sort of their strength and a big reason why they beat us in 1998," said Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a defenseman for Canada from 1994-2006 and now an analyst for Sportsnet and ESPN. "So, it was important to bring in some players like 'Caro' who were big power forwards that could handle the physicalness of the U.S.'s play. That was a big part of her success was her just being a big player for us and sort of dominating down low and putting pressure on their D."

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