U SPORTS WHKY: GTA Seniors on Toronto NWHL Expansion

Toronto,ONThe NWHL’s expansion to Toronto has had a ripple effect on women’s hockey in the city. Excitement is in the air, especially if you are a U SPORTS player. For the longest time, the end of your university career marked the end of your hockey career. Now, the opportunity to go pro is here and offers a brand new road for players that they did not have before.

49 Sports spoke to Louie Bieman of the Toronto Varsity Blues and Lauren Dubie of the York Lions, two players who are entering their final U SPORTS season and both had interesting things to say about the NWHL’s expansion.

Louie Bieman - Women's Ice Hockey - University of Toronto Athletics
Bieman with the Varsity Blues (Varsity Blues Athletics)

Both players are focusing on the season at hand and working hard to put themselves in a position to win the McCaw Cup. However, they understand the opportunity the expansion presents and it is affecting the way they are preparing for this season. Knowing that there will be professional scouts at the games changes the game and encourages them to push themselves to their highest level for the chance to go pro.

“I will definitely be putting more focus on how I mentally prepare for games in order that I will be able to perform consistently at a top level to give myself a chance of being scouted.” – Louie Bieman

The chance to play professionally in their home city is a big deal and players are going to work hard in order to gain an edge and possibly a contract. 

When you are playing hockey at a high level such as U SPORTS, the last thing you want to do is hang up your skates. Players often do whatever they can to make their careers as long as possible, Dubie is no different. 

“I think this does impact players entering in their senior year … for me personally, getting an opportunity to play professional hockey is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl.” – Lauren Dubie

The expansion marks a new path for players to take that wasn’t there a few months ago. For many, this is a dream come true and they’re going to do everything they can to turn the dream into reality. 

No. 9 Lions shut out Badgers - Brock University Athletics
Lauren Dubie makes a save for the Lions against Brock (Jayson Childs/ Brock Badgers Athletics)

As for how the expansion affects the growth of women’s hockey, both players are very excited about the future of the sport. Dubie has played with some of the York alumni that will be on NWHL Toronto, and seeing that happen got her excited about her possible opportunities to come. Bieman said that the combination of the dominance of the three U SPORTS Toronto teams (Toronto, York, Ryerson) in the last few years and the new NWHL team will act in tandem to inject interest in women’s sports, however, she isn’t sure how this will pan out in the long-term. 

“With a lot of top women’s hockey players continuing to boycott I think there will be continual issues in growing women’s hockey until everyone is on the same page and working in the same way to grow the game.” – Louie Bieman

With the PWHPA and the NWHL divided on the best course for women’s hockey, it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions for women’s hockey players. The expansion is a small step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. 

Watching teammates take the professional route and seeing the growing interest in women’s hockey is extremely exciting for U SPORTS players entering their senior year. The expansion to Toronto marks a new chapter in women’s hockey and makes it a very exciting time to be a university player right now.

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