Friday, January 24, 2020

Ann-Renée Desbiens: Two Autographed Cards

The NHL All-Star Weekend is underway, and as I mentioned last week, it featured a 3-on-3 two-period game pitting ten players each from the women's Team Canada and Team USA squads going head-to-head, with the Canadians coming out victorious 2-1 on the strong goaltending of La Malbaie's Ann-Renée Desbiens.

At 25 years old, Desbiens is just coming into her own at her position under the most pressure anyone's possibly ever felt before, as she's had to follow in the footsteps and fill the shoes of legendary trailblazers Kim St-Pierre (2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold medalist) and Charline Labonté (also a three-time winner, in 2006, 2010 and 2014) while sharing duties with a 30-year-old Geneviève Lacasse (2014 gold medalist) who is playing like she's still in her prime, as well as 33-year-old (and 2010 and 2014 gold medalist) Shannon Szabados.

The standard for Canada is nothing short of gold, so Desbiens' trio of silver medals (2011 U-18s, 2015 World Championships and 2018 Olympics) may make it seem like she's underachieving, but all signs point to the contrary: she's actually been improving from year to year ever since starring in nets for the University of Wisconsin Badgers (save percentages of .941, .960 and .963 in her three seasons as starter, pitching 56 shutouts in the process - 13 more than the previous record - and going from Top Female Collegiate Player Of The Year finalist to winner) to earning more and more games with the national team to today's impressive showing on the sport's biggest stage of the women's season.

She is definitely starting to look worthy of her (and my) childhood idol Patrick Roy's #33 jersey at exactly the right age for it: old enough to know what to expect from the game, and young enough for the body to execute what the mind tells it to - all without playing actual pro hockey this season.

I can't wait for the women to have another professional league playing in Canada again so I can see her play in person in more than just scrimmages.

Here she is wearing Canada's 2014-15 pseudo-vintage white ("home") uniform with "CANADA" written diagonally, New York Rangers-style, on card #64 from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
 And here she is wearing the traditional (away) uniform with the "Hockey Canada" logo, on card #99 from UD's 2015-16 Team Canada Juniors/Women set:
She signed both in blue sharpie with her number (33) tagged at the end during the 2018 Olympic cycle, which is why she's my entry for that number in my Team Canada Numbers Project.

You can see in both pictures that she holds her catching glove fairly high and straight up, which is something I advise against for the pro men, but because she's only 5'9", it helps her cover the top and middle of the left side. It leaves her vulnerable under the elbow, and she has to make up for it by swatting down more often than she pulls her arm up to compensate, a move that is a split-second slower than the opposite. She handles it quite well, though, but it might hinder her if she were to sign in a men's league that has hard shots going over 90 mph - think the NHL, AHL, KHL or the Swedish League. She could probably try playing in a systems-based finesse league like they have in Switzerland or France... or someone could come up with a viable way for the women to play 40 to 55 games per season in their own league as their full-time job.

No comments:

Post a Comment