By Mark Staffieri, CWHL
After a stellar 13 year career in the NWHL and CWHL, Nathalie Dery made the visceral decision to retire. With a great love of the game, the Montreal Stars won't have to look far to find her. The three-time Clarkson Cup champion will occupy a spot behind the Stars bench as an assistant coach.
"Last season, I had contemplated retirement, but I arrived at (Stars) training camp and decided to keep going. In my last year as a player, we won the Clarkson Cup. That was one of the greatest years of my career. A beautiful season. One that I can honestly say didn't have any problems."
"She is a great acquisition for our organization. An ideal candidate," proclaims Stars' head coach Patrick Rankine proudly. "Her experience is undeniable." Dery also holds a mutual respect for Rankine, "He is experienced at coaching elite players. I can learn from him. He is a master at controlling the game."
Dery has vast coaching experience behind her, having served on the coaching staff of the Concordia Stingers for four seasons under the tutelage of Les Lawton, the first women's hockey coach in North America to have 500 wins in a career. "He is always aware of what happens on the ice. Les knew I was a teacher and he gave me a good chance," mentioned Dery.
"Nathalie rounds out our staff. She has a great technical coaching technique," mentioned Stars' General Manager Meg Hewings. Dery's career goes back to 1998 when she played on the Ste. Julie Pantheres with Nancy Drolet. Other stints included the Cheyenne de Metropole and the Québec Avalanche. From Québec, Dery switched to the Montreal Axion (pronounced Action). She would play in the first Clarkson Cup in 2009, her mark on hockey history assured.
"When I announced my retirement this year, some of my teammates were asking if I had truly retired," joked Dery. When she isn't playing hockey, Dery, the former physical education teacher, is a Vice-Principal at Montreal's École Secondaire de Viau. "I helped start the hockey program at the school, and organize many things hockey related. Caroline Ouellette and Kim St. Pierre have been to the school for events."
With her experience spanning more than a decade, she has the ability to earn the respect and trust of the former teammates she'll now be coaching. "She is respectful of the players. She was an authority figure as a player, so I think it will be an easy transition and a natural evolution for our club," said Hewings. As the Stars prepare towards their march of gaining an unprecedented third consecutive Clarkson Cup, Dery would occupy a unique place in the history of the CWHL: She would be the first person to win the coveted Cup as a player and a coach.