A Fontaine Fable

Meet the brother-sister hockey duo leaving their mark in Matthews: Skylar and Gunnar Fontaine

By Nicole Reading

For the podcast extension of this story, click here: The Howl: Episode 3

A ragged net between the pipes and an overturned bucket of pucks close by is the backyard scene most hockey players would describe as the lasting image of their childhood. For women’s hockey senior defenseman Skylar and men’s hockey freshman forward Gunnarwolfe “Gunnar” Fontaine, it was no different, and served as the source of some of their best memories growing up in Rhode Island.

“We were always outside shooting pucks,” Gunnar said. The bond that was created has endured long after the days of youth hockey ended, and as Gunnar put it: “No matter how far apart we were we always had each other.”

Serving as each other’s source of motivation ever since they could hold a stick, competition has become synonymous with the sibling duo. On and off the ice, the pair always had each other to strive for.

“We had a little chart in our dining room to keep track of how many goals we all had, and every time we came back from a game, if you scored a goal you always had to add a sticker under your name,” Gunnar said. 

Photo by Sarah Olender

As Skylar laughed at the distant memory, she added, “We were competitive because we wanted to make each other better, and we knew that pushing one another would get us each to where we wanted to be in our hockey careers,” she said. “I honestly don’t think I would be as good of a hockey player or where I am today without my siblings always pushing me.”

The family’s eldest sister, Alex Tancrell-Fontaine, played hockey at Union College and set the stage for her two younger siblings to follow in her footsteps.

“We were always at the rink watching Alex,” Skylar said. Gunnar added, “It was inevitable that Sky and I were going to pick up a stick and give it a shot.”

Skylar and Gunnar’s mom, Deb, raised her kids to compete. Through a childhood that for most elite skaters is riddled with sacrifice and adversity, having ambitious hockey dreams is no easy road. The Fontaine siblings were no exception to this.

Referencing their hard work and willpower in trying times, Deb recalled, “I always told them to work harder than everyone else and leave their heart out on the ice.”

Both Gunnar and Skylar followed their mom’s advice precisely. The two have battled their way through scoring droughts, quick judgements from scouts, and hard times, to one of the most renowned hockey institutions in the country. 

Mom would always tell them, “You might not be the best or the biggest one on the ice, but you can have the biggest heart.”

And they have shown just that. The two embraced a style of play that exudes an eternal love for the game and a never-ending competitive drive to win, which is now going to be on full display every time the puck drops at Matthews Arena. 

Skylar has built an incredible reputation as a star defenseman here at Northeastern. The name Fontaine continues to echo throughout Matthews Arena as part of her relentless campaign that has helped the women’s team to three Hockey East championships, three NCAA Tournament appearances, and a Beanpot Championship. And her time as a Husky isn’t over yet.

Can the new Fontaine in town live up to his older sister’s legendary presence? 

Although Mom would’ve “loved to see them both in number 22,” Gunnarwolfe dons the number 11 jersey, half that of his sister’s number 22, for the men’s team.

Time will tell what the Fontaine legacy consists of at Northeastern, but for now the fun is just beginning. The sibling competition is in full swing. If anything, it’s reached a new level as it is no longer just a family affair, but has permeated the men’s and women’s locker rooms as well as the two coaching staffs.

“The guys will tease me, ‘Don’t let her have more points than you,’ and even Coach Madigan chimes in every once in a while, saying, ‘You know Skylar is an All-American here,’” Gunnar said with a smirk.

Deb even jokingly noted the banter during both Skylar and Gunnar’s recruitment process, saying, “Everyone would joke in conversations, ‘You take Skylar, you’re gonna have to take Gunnar.’”

But it’s all in good fun, and quite frankly, the siblings are just happy to be in the same zip code as each other for more than a two-week window.

Skylar graduated from East Greenwich High School in 2017, a standout on the boy’s hockey team, and ever since then she has been here in Boston playing for the Huskies. Gunnar left home in the same year for Lawrence Academy, a prep school in Massachusetts, where he was both a hockey and lacrosse star. In 2018, he then proceeded to join the USHL, the top junior ice hockey league in the U.S., playing for the Chicago Steel. Aside from the occasional holiday, the two have not been geographically close for over three years.

“I am so so excited to have G here,” Skylar said, dropping a loving nickname, “Because I haven’t gotten to see him play in so so long, with us both on our different paths.”

The Fontaines call hockey a “family affair,” and for both Skylar and Gunnar, family always comes first.

“Growing up, I looked up to both of my sisters as they went Division I before me; it was really inspiring,” Gunnar said. “Sky is a passionate leader who cares about her teammates on and off the ice. She wants to be the person everyone is looking to. I know I have looked up to her my whole life.”

The pair mess with one another and laugh when the other fumbles a word as all siblings would, but when it comes down to it, they are each other’s number one fans.

Skylar raves about her little brother as, “An incredible hockey player with speed, skill, and knowledge. … He wants to be the best.” Gunnar was caught blushing at this statement.

Despite the strict guidelines and inevitably weird season on the horizon, the pair is here to leave their mark. With an NHL draft selection for Gunnar, and the possibility of this being Skylar’s last go in a Northeastern sweater, the two are armed with a certain focus and swagger. The Fontaines are ready to have some fun!

Men’s hockey head coach Jim Madigan put it best when speaking for Northeastern Hockey as a whole: “We are all just ready to get out and compete,” he said. “This year especially, with last season being abruptly cut short, there is a special drive to get things going.”

As for the new brother-sister Husky hockey duo, they are itching for that puck to drop.

Two teams. One mission. 

Two jerseys. One name.