Vancouver, BC- Estelle Duvin has avoided the contentious state that is North American women’s hockey. The former University of Montreal Carabin has turned pro but has not chosen the National Women’s Hockey League or the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. She’s avoided it all, and chosen to play in Europe, with TPS Turku of the Finish women’s pro league.
Duvin was born in France and has represented the French national team, all while going to school and playing for the Carabins. The return to Europe isn’t all that surprising, as its back to her native continent, however, so far, she’s the only women’s hockey player from U SPORTS to turn pro this offseason.
Over her four years with the Carabins she has never been dominant, but she has performed when needed, helping the Carabins to two national championship appearances. Her collegiate career began in the NCAA, but she never played a game before returning to a french speaking school in Montreal.
Rarely do U SPORTS players appear for their country, and it’s even rarer to see it happen in the top division of the World Championships. Sure, Melodie Daoust played for the McGill Martlets and Team Canada, but outside of that, it’s a rarity. Duvin hit IIHF World Championship ice with Team France in 2019, as a member of the French side that marked a big step in the growth of women’s hockey for the country. Although they were relegated, Duvin and her teammates continue to set their sights on an Olympic berth in 2022. It’s a possibility, and with Duvin moving on in her career, she only serves as a greater help to the national team.
Last offseason, over 10 U SPORTS women’s hockey players signed professional deals, including two to the NWHL, a league now expanded to Toronto. Professional hockey is a contentious thought for U SPORTS players these days, as options are limited on home soil. While 10 last year is a respectable number of players turned pro, it is nowhere near what the league once saw when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League existed. Every year the CWHL featured dozens of former U SPORTS players, but when the league ceased operations in 2019, it took away a major opportunity.
Could Duvin have played in the CWHL? I would guess that if the league had been around she would have; following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Daoust, who played with Montreal’s CWHL team and served as Duvin’s assistant coach this year with the Carabins.
Choosing to play in Finland is not for everyone, but there are a lot of things to like about how the Finnish league operates. It is operated by the Finnish National Hockey Federation and is widely considered to be on more stable footing than the NWHL is or CWHL was. While most players still have to work second jobs, the working conditions of the Finnish league are often much better than the NWHL. The Victory Press recently investigated what a player’s life is like in the NWHL, and their findings are not something that parallels the Finnish league.
Duvin is joining a revamped TPS Turku next season. Last year the team featured an Italian backup goaltender as their lone foreign player, however, at this point, they have already signed Duvin, one of her French National Team teammates as well as a pair of Americans.
Duvin’s signing with TPS has so many upsides, not just for herself, but for Finish hockey, French hockey, and the professional aspirations of U SPORTS seniors who don’t wish to join the contentious atmosphere of North American professional women’s hockey. She leaves the Carabins in good hands and her four years have shown her younger teammates what is possible for them if they work hard and open their eyes to further opportunity outside of North America.