Over the past four years, many female hockey players like Renata Fast have missed one simple thing: teammates.
Yes, there was the national team. And for members of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), like the defending Canadian, there were also teams from the Dream Gap Tour.
But the camaraderie of a professional team, with all its members located in one city, was conspicuously absent.
“I’m very excited to be able to have that opportunity to represent the city, go on the journey with a team of players and staff that we can build from the beginning of the season to the end of the season,” Fast said. CBC Sports.
“That sets us all up for success and also for maximum enjoyment.”
Fast, from Burlington, Ont., was one of three initial signings to the Toronto Women’s Professional Hockey League team, along with fellow Canadians Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull.
Fast said he will be at the event at CBC headquarters in Toronto.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be an amazing day, an amazing opportunity to meet your teammates that are there and that are selected. So it’s going to be very, very fun, but also very interesting,” Fast said. .
Intriguing new player combinations
Although many top players have already signed, the draft represents a momentous occasion as the first of its kind in women’s hockey.
It’s also rare to have so many elite players available, including players like rising American star Taylor Heise and two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Natalie Spooner, at the same time in any sport. In total, 268 players declared for the draft.
“It’s going to be a very special moment, a moment of coming full circle, reflecting everything that women’s football has been through,” Fast said. “And it doesn’t matter what path these players have taken to get recruited, whether it’s PHF [Premier Hockey Federation]international leagues, everyone was involved in getting the game to this point.”
SEE | Hefford talks about PWHL with CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux:
While draftees will have the honor of hearing their name called during the draft, the downside is a lack of options and possible relocation to a new city.
Fast said the ideas that are already bubbling in his mind about team-building activities in Toronto will help make that transition a smooth one for those coming from out of town.
The draft should also provide some interesting groups of players who have never been on the same team before.
Imagine Spooner chasing pucks on a line with Hilary Knight in Boston, or Canada’s Claire Thompson forming a top-tier defensive pairing with American Caroline Harvey for years to come.
And that’s not to mention top PHF players like Loren Gabel and Brittany Howard, or European stars like Swiss Alina Müller.
“If you can earn a place on a roster, then you deserve it and it’s important that you’re here,” Fast said. “But I want to make it clear that it’s like everyone was involved in making this point. It wasn’t just the players, it was everyone for the generations before us. Everyone is included in this.”
Players consulted about the draft process
Still, Fast said she, Nurse and Turnbull were being consulted by general manager Gina Kingsbury about players who might join them in Toronto during the draft.
“They’re going to develop the players they envision depending on how the draft goes,” Fast said. “But [Kingsbury has] He definitely gave the three of us some names to think about, to see if [they’re] “good fits.”
Ottawa general manager Michael Hirshfeld said he was also collaborating with his three starting players.
After the draft, those not selected will be able to sign with teams and compete for training camp spots on the six 23-man rosters.
But as the PWHL continues to develop, the draft should make it all seem more real.
“It’s going to be one of the most exciting drafts ever. I’m just looking at the talent that’s still on the table and the depth, the number of players that need to be drafted in the markets,” Fast said.
“And it’s crazy.”