Toronto,ON- The NWHL’s expansion to Toronto is huge news in the hockey world, but more importantly, the world of U SPORTS women’s hockey. This marks a historic moment in women’s hockey and the growth of professional opportunities for the hard-working players. From the chance to play professionally to the interest generated towards women’s hockey, this expansion brings a ton of good news to the players competing in U SPORTS. In this article, 49 Sports shares three good things that come with this exciting expansion news.
1. An opportunity to play professionally
For most women’s hockey players, college and university careers are the pinnacle of competition. With this expansion, it opens more doors and opportunities for the players to continue their careers and play professional hockey. U SPORTS players are eligible for the NWHL draft once they graduate and two players have already made the leap.
Autumn McDougall from the Alberta Pandas and Erin Locke from the York Lions were the first players from U Sports to be drafted into the league and Locke actually got drafted by the Toronto team. This is just a sign of what’s to come for plenty of U SPORTS players.
2. A new reason to play for
With a professional team coming to Toronto, they don’t just bring players, but scouts, management and high-level coaches. With three OUA teams in close proximity (York, Toronto and Ryerson), it makes it extremely easy for scouts to check out a U SPORTS game and see the talent on the ice. In addition to the game, players are now competing for potential contracts and a chance to play professionally which adds a bigger sense of purpose and ramps up competition.
3. New eyes on the sport
The other day, Dani Rylan, commissioner of the NWHL, was on the Steve Dangle Podcast and was asked about where the Toronto team was going to play. She said that they were working on creative options that included potentially playing in multiple arenas in the GTA to get as much exposure to the team as possible. This is extremely interesting as it could potentially bring the NWHL to a U SPORTS arena. The Toronto team is expected to play 20 games this season (10 home and 10 road games) which means that 10 games will be played in the GTA. Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre is a top-level rink that is a very good candidate for the new NWHL team.
This will generate new interest in women’s hockey which will only positively benefit U SPORTS women’s hockey. The commissioner has shown numerous times that she is not afraid to make bold, creative choices. She saw an opportunity with Twitch TV and NWHL viewership spiked. All the major sports leagues in North America are shut down and she decided to expand the league and hold a virtual draft in a time where people are starving for sports content. Perhaps a showdown between U SPORTS all-stars and NWHL all-stars is on the menu? U SPORTS vs. an all-Toronto team? Nothing is off the table and it will only generate more interest and eyes onto the sport.
While many people are conflicted with the news of the NWHL expansion to Toronto, one thing is certain. It will have a very positive impact on U SPORTS women’s hockey and it’s really exciting to see what is on the horizon for these extremely talented players.
Cover Photo: NWHL Communications