It was announced last week that this upcoming fall there would be a new sports league in the US; the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). This league is a paid version of the already established Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), which is the current “professional” option for women who want to continue playing hockey. Ever since the Boston Blades won the Clarkson Cup a few weeks ago, the internet has been blowing up about the fact that the best women’s hockey players in the world are not currently getting paid. These best women’s hockey players include US standout Hilary Knight, who is arguably one of the most recognizable womens hockey players in the world. With the establishment of the NWHL, it seems that the CWHL will either fold, or will use this as leverage to acquire additional money and funding in order to pay its players. Regardless of what happens, this is a HUGE step forward for women who play hockey.
I’ve been playing hockey for 12 years, and I am so happy that this is happening. I am also a really envious of the opportunity that all of the girls who are now playing hockey, will have to continue playing the sport they love. It’s crazy to imagine telling my kids that in my day, we didn’t have a professional women’s hockey league, and that most girls had to make a choice. That is the choice that I had to make when I was applying to colleges.
I had the option of playing hockey in college if I had wanted to, most likely at the DIII level. Unfortunately, the hockey programs that I would have played for weren’t for the best schools, and these schools didn’t really fit my criteria for what I wanted. I wanted a big school with lots of options, lot of people, and large classes; I wanted a different location than I had been in, which meant going a little further away from home; I also wanted a good business school, where I would be able to prepare myself for the real world, which is ultimately where I would end up. Looking at schools and thinking about where I wanted to go, I always had that in the back of my mind: “hockey is not a career, you’ll have to have a real job after graduation”. This led me to focus heavily on what school I wanted to go to, which got me to think about better schools with more established programs. That’s when Northeastern caught my eye.
I remember that weekend so well, my mom and I had driven up to Boston for a weekend of college visits. On Saturday we tackled BC in the morning, and Hahvahd (as they say in Boston), in the afternoon. We got to the hotel, debriefing ongoing until we reached the room, and settled in for a nights sleep before another big day of college tours. Waking up the next morning it was raining, like it often is in Boston during the spring. We got to campus and walked into Behrakis for our information session. I’ll be honest, the information session was sub-par, and I feel sorry for the girl because I think it was the first one she had ever given. I work in admissions now, and I can assure everyone that the visiting process is absolutely fantastic and professional now. We headed out on the tour, the sky completely gray with a slight drizzle, and all I remember is feeling so in awe of the campus and everything about it. I don’t even remember a single thing that my tour guide said, again it wasn’t the best tour that could have been given, but for whatever reason, I fell in love with the atmosphere of Northeastern. To this day, I still attest to the fact that you should visit schools when the weather is terrible, because if you can like a college when the weather is terrible, you’ll absolutely love it when the weather is nice.
Since that day, I had my mind set on Northeastern. Every other college I visited, with the exception of Cornell, fell short of the feeling I had experienced at NU. Now that I had picked a school, it was time to look at the hockey programs. As is usually the case when you’re a goalie, the position gets filled pretty quickly because there’s usually only one spot available. I knew that if I chose to go to Northeastern, I would not be playing hockey at the NCAA level. I was assured that I wouldn’t completely lose my sport because there was a club hockey team, and they played all season long, and at Matthews Arena, a win win. The day I was accepted into Northeastern was one of the best days, not only because of the acceptance letter, but because of everything that has happened since and all of the opportunities I have had. I still get to play hockey, although not at the level I had aimed for, and I am getting an awesome education at the same time.
I will never regret choosing to go to Northeastern; it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life. I do sometimes regret not pursuing hockey at a higher level.
The NWHL will alleviate that choice for girls who go through the same thing I do. This doesn’t just happen in hockey. but across all sports where there isn’t a professional league for them to play in. This league is also going to increase the skill level overall of all girls who play hockey, because they’re going to have a goal to work against. All young hockey players aspire to play in the NHL, whether they’re girls or boys, with the girls having to shift their dreams to being able to play in college. Now all girls will have the ability to work towards a professional career, with the ultimate goal remaining representing your country in the Olympics.
While my hockey playing career is nearly over, for hundreds of women, it is just starting.