Debuting on June 5, 2014, the women’s hockey documentary Les Stars is more than just a chronicling of the Montreal Stars on-ice accomplishments. It serves as an intimate portrait of a remarkable group of pioneering women, looking to change the cultural norm. As one of the signature franchises of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the Stars were not only the first to claim back-to-back Clarkson Cups, but the first to capture three overall titles, respectively.
Directed by Jess Desjardins (who pulls double duty as the sound recordist), she is an individual with many diverse interests. Having directed and produced several short films this year alone, Desjardins, an avid musician, has also been a sports fan since her youth. The love of sport has helped to serve as a backdrop for another of her great passions; photography.
Highly talented and accomplished behind the lens as a photographer, Desjardins has used her keen visual talents to snap the action at the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Clarkson Cup, the championship event in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). As a side note, a photo that Desjardins snapped of Caroline Ouellette and “Dangerous” Dominqiue Thibault made the cover of the 2013 Clarkson Cup program.
Not since The Game of Her Life, a documentary produced in 1998 by the National Film Board of Canada, has such an effort been made to preserve a time frame which seizes the drive and dedication that encompasses life as a female hockey player. Desjardins would be quick to point out that Domenico Ciarallo and his firm Rocket Sport (manufacturers of the Rocket Equipment Dryer) has been a key sponsor in helping preserve a unique time in Canadian female sporting history on film.
Capturing their moments through good times and bad, Desjardins works tirelessly to provide the viewer with a window into their motivation and competitive edge while capturing a soft, human side. Desjardins is able to display a very optimistic and hopeful outlook on the game and its bright future. With the Stars helping set the table for tomorrow’s generation of female athletes, they are the centerpieces of Desjardins’ documentary.
Founded by Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux in 2007, the Stars rose from the ashes of the defunct Montreal Axion (pronounced Action). While the club is truly an extension of her love for the game, it is also her leadership that unifies the team in its desire to succeed. She has opened the door for women to enter the franchise and feel like part of a unique family where hockey is helping to empower women.
Like any gathering of individuals, whether it is sporting, social or professional, there is no question that the Stars comprise a unique collection of diverse personalities, all entailing distinct backgrounds. Over the years, competitors in both the Summer and Winter Olympics have not been the only notable individuals to entail the Stars rosters. Police officers, reality TV stars, school teachers and competitors in the Red Bull Crashed Ice circuit have comprised some of the unique off-ice careers that players have engaged in.
Although not every player’s personal story could make it past the cutting room floor, a common ground is established. A love of the game, complemented by the ability to balance other aspects of life is a defining feature in every player’s career, beautifully chronicled in the work of Desjardins.
These hockey-playing women, a group of dedicated, frozen gladiators have endured countless struggles in order to make their competitive dreams come true. Desjardins, like the women she immortalizes in her documentary, participate in what they do as a labor of love. The battle for sporting equality and the fight to pursue one’s dreams should make this documentary not only serves as inspiration for future generations of players but serve as mandatory sports viewing.