“Go and win both championships for me. Every gameI will be with you. […] Alice, I’m going to be with you in the net and we’re going to win this together. »
Posted at 7:00 a.m.
That’s what Alice and Léonie Philbert’s grandmother told them on February 26, on the eve of their last game of the season with the Concordia Stingers. The next day, she received medical assistance in dying.
“We knew it was happening, but we were always hoping that she would move the date back, because she had already moved it back twice, says goalkeeper Alice to The Press. But there, February 27, was really the date. »
The two sisters therefore set off on a mission to first win the RSEQ Provincial University Women’s Hockey Championship, then the U Sports Canadian Championship. And they got there.
In the second half of the season, the Stingers were absolutely sensational. They have won their last 13 games, including both championships. In goal, 25-year-old Alice Philbert hasn’t missed a single puck in the entire national tournament.
Before every game, I closed my eyes and just talked to my grandmother. Her name is Micheline. I said: ‟Michou, you are with me, one period at a time, we are going to win this game.”
“I really did it for her. It allowed me to take away my stress also because I said to myself: ‟I am not alone.” I knew she was with me. We did it together. »
When the final seconds ticked by on the clock last Sunday, crowning the Stingers Canadian champions for the first time in 23 years, Leonie was the first to walk over to her sister.
“The first thing I said to him was, ‘We did it! She was with us and we succeeded,” says Léonie with a smile.
through the trials
team first. The team first. It’s the golden rule for the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team. But the Philbert sisters have lived with it for much longer than that.
Since 2009, in fact. When a brain tumor was discovered in Léonie, the penultimate of a family of four children, three girls and a boy.
“I was in fourth grade and we had to hide an eye and go and carry a paperclip in a cup,” recalls the 22-year-old hockey player. Me, I close my left eye, I’m going to wear it and there’s no problem. But when I put my hand over my right eye, it’s all black. I saw nothing. »
The next day, the family saw an optometrist, who referred her to the hospital. The tumor, the size of a plum, leaned against his optic nerve. A week later, on May 6, 2009, little Léonie, 9 years old, was operated on. The operation lasted 10 hours.
His sister Alice is two years his senior. “You hear the word tumor and you think your sister is going to die,” she said, remembering the thought of her 11-year-old. It says it in the word: you die. For me, it was awful. That’s the first thing I thought of. »
The Philbert parents asked for help from the doctors in order to use the right words to explain the situation to their children.
“Since we were all sportsmen, they said: ‘Take it like it was a soccer match,'” Alice recalls. It was one half at a time. […] Every little moment of game is important. They told us we needed each other to get through it. »
The team first. In life as on the ice.
“Our coaches at Concordia often tell us that the team first, we already have it within us. It’s not something you have to learn because you’ve had it all your life. »
With all the hardships we had to go through, we are so united as a family that we manage to do this with our team.
Léonie did chemotherapy, then radiotherapy until the start of the following school year. To date, she has follow-up appointments every two years. And she is being followed by an endocrinologist because the radiotherapy has affected her pituitary gland, which secretes growth hormone. She stopped growing earlier than expected, at 5ft 2in, and she still receives injections every day.
“What I am able to see today is that yes, there are difficult things that life will put in our way, but when we go through it, we come out of it stronger and we realize that there are more important things, says the young athlete. There, we have just won a championship. It’s sick. Except that you are also able to see that in life, there are young people who are in the hospital and who are fighting for their lives. »
Together to the top
Hockey has always been an integral part of the Philbert family. Father, mother and children practiced the sport. Our two protagonists first played ringette, before doing their minor hockey in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, evolving from their childhood in the highest levels.
They were midget level when they first found themselves on the same team, Léonie having been upgraded from bantam.
When it came time for Alice to choose a college institution in 2015, it was out of the question for her to study in English. Except that a combination of circumstances meant that she had to turn to Dawson College.
With hindsight, let’s say that life has done things well… “That’s kind of why I was able to go to Concordia afterwards. Because I had English. When I was younger, I wanted to go to the University of Montreal, it was the only one in French.
“When Julie [Chu] and carolina [Ouellette] have arrived [comme entraîneuses à Concordia], right away, I said, ‘Yeah, that’s where I want to go’. »
The culture at Concordia is exceptional. It’s team first. You walk in there and it really is your second family. You have no stress. You are going to practice, you have fun. You play, you have fun.
For her part, Léonie also opted for Dawson College, where she played a season with her sister. When Alice went to the Stingers, Léonie went to see her matches.
“I was able to see the dynamic that there was in the teams, she explains. Every time I saw the games, I watched the benches. I saw Concordia having fun. »
In 2019-2020, the two sisters played their first university season together. In March of that year, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. With their father, they built a synthetic ice rink in their backyard.
“Of course having Leo, a university player, who could shoot me, it allowed me to keep my reaction and all that, says Alice. Even if you couldn’t really skate on it, for me it was really essential. »
Once again, they went through an ordeal together, as a family. Two years later, they are Canadian champions.
Next year, Alice will return for her final season with Concordia University. Léonie will be on her third. Teamfirst, as per usual.