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Out Olympian Caroline Ouellette pays tribute to her wife at Hockey Hall of Fame induction

As she receives her sport’s highest honor, Canada’s four-time gold medal winner celebrates her wife as a fellow Olympian.

2023 Hockey Hall Of Fame Induction - Legends Game
Caroline Ouellette reveals her Hockey Hall of Fame blazer is lined with pictures of wife Julie Chu and her family. She receives it from fellow HOFer Lanny McDonald.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Caroline Ouellette, who is part of Team Canada and Team LGBTQ, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 13.

In a hockey year full of Gary Bettman and Ivan Provorov, that is a bit of genuine good news for LGBTQ hockey fans in 2023.

In addition to her Olympic prowess, Ouellette won six gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and four Clarkson Cups with the CWHL’s Montreal Stars and Canadiennes de Montreal.

During her induction speech, the Quebec native joked, “If you haven’t noticed, I’m quite French” and alternated between English and French throughout.

But when she mentioned her wife and current coaching partner Julie Chu, there was no translation necessary for the love and admiration Ouellette expressed.

Declaring Chu “my best friend and the most wonderful human being in the world,” Ouellette kidded, “Julie is also a four time Olympian—with Team USA. But she’s wonderful, I promise.”

Continuing her tribute, Ouellette’s professional admiration for Chu as a fellow coach blended with a loving reverence for her as a wife and parent.

“Julie, you are the best leader one can learn from. You always find exactly what the right words to say are no matter what the situation asks for,” Ouellette said.

“I love what I get to do each day and who I get to do it with. And Julie, you gave me that sense of purpose. You are also the best mother for our daughters Liv and Tessa, our little monsters,” she added.

That’s an important moment in every Hall of Fame speech and it’s a trope of every induction: an all-time legend letting his or her emotions loose as their significant other meets their gaze with an expression of mutual love.

To see two married women getting to share that moment is especially resonant as an LGBTQ sports fan. There are many ways that sports are currently working to make the LGBTQ community feel more welcome—this was our community being welcomed at sports’ highest level.

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Women’s Ice Hockey Canada vs USA gold medal game
Caroline Ouellette takes the puck down the ice during the gold medal game of the 2014 Olympics. Canada defeated Team USA 3-2 in overtime to finish at the top of the podium.
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/ The Denver Post

Ouellette joined Jayna Hefford and Angela James as out LGBTQ members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. And as one of just 10 women in the Hall, Ouellette’s induction also represented a victory for intersectionality in her sport. She acknowledged this in her speech and recalled the bullying she faced for being in a girl in youth hockey.

“I played with boys from nine to 17 years old and all those years, I was the only girl on my team. I heard about every possible name calling…I’ll always remember what my dad told me about the mocking: ’Carol, you don’t control what other people say to you but you always control your actions. You always control your attitude and the best thing to do right now is to focus on being a difference maker on the ice where you have control,’” she said.

As former players like Brock McGillis have testified, that sense of being othered is something LGBTQ hockey players can identify with as well.

Thankfully, Ouellette persevered through it and made a place for herself among hockey’s all-time greats. Hopefully, more LGBTQ players will be able to join her soon.