Inaugural PWHL draft ‘iconic moment’ for players

Sep 21, 2023 | Sports

The inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) draft saw 90 players find their new homes and teammates during what’s described as a monumental event for women’s hockey.

Women’s equality activist and tennis legend Billie Jean King announced the first-ever draft pick on behalf of the Minnesota team to select hometown centre Taylor Heise.

Heise described the Sept. 18 event as a key moment for women’s hockey.

“I think the fact we were able to dress up, show our personalities on the purple carpet, come out, give interviews, see little girls be a part of the draft, it’s just an iconic moment that some people didn’t expect would happen,” the U.S. international star said.

“For us we always had faith, we always knew that we would get what we deserved one day, and I’m glad today’s that day,” Heise said.

She said the PWHL will be an important stepping stone in the growth of women’s hockey.

“In women’s hockey, we’ve been looking for more media coverage, we’ve been looking for building foundational sources for young girls,” Heise said. “We’re making our way, and we’re making it with a proud step forward right now.”

Taylor Heise and Billie Jean King handshake

Taylor Heise (right) shakes hands with Billie Jean King after the first overall draft selection in the inaugural PWHL draft in Toronto on Sept. 18. Photo credit: Rory Arthur

Switzerland international forward Alina Müller became the first European player to be selected, going to Boston with the third overall pick during the draft held at the CBC building in Toronto.

Müller said she hopes more European players play in the PWHL shortly to help close the talent gap between Canadian and American players and the rest of the world.

“We want to have the best players in this league no matter where they come from,” she said. “It’s going to help, closing the gap, it’s going to make it more competitive for everybody.”

Müller had signed a contract with the Boston Pride of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) earlier this summer before the league folded in June.

However, she said creating a centralized league with the best players was even better.

Alina Müller poses on stage

Boston selected Alina Müller, third from left, in the third round. She poses with, from left Danielle Marmer, Billie Jean King, and Jayna Hefford on stage after being selected in the inaugural PWHL draft. Photo credit: Rory Arthur

“Obviously I was excited when I signed with Boston in the PHF,” the Northeastern University alumna said.

“I was looking forward to it of course, but creating a league with the best players, just one unified league was always the dream,” Müller said. “We all knew it was going to happen one day, now it came quicker than expected.”

Toronto picked defenceman Jocelyne Larocque with the second pick in the draft.

The veteran blueliner said she was excited to be drafted by Toronto, where she previously played with the Brampton and Markham Thunder in the defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

“It’s exactly what I was hoping for,” Larocque said. “I’ve been living in Toronto or outside of Toronto for over 10 years.

Jocelyne Larocque poses with Billie Jean King on stage

Toronto pick Jocelyne Larocque poses with Billie Jean King after the second overall draft selection in the inaugural PWHL draft. Photo credit: Rory Arthur

“I would have been happy with any team, but this is the team I was hoping to get picked by,” she said. “Especially [with] Gina Kingsbury being the GM, and Troy Ryan being the head coach.”

Larocque said being reunited with longtime defensive partner Renata Fast, who signed with Toronto as a free agent before the draft, was exciting.

“We’re close friends, we obviously have played together for five-plus years now,” she said. “There’s a comfort there, and I’m excited that we’ll be on the same professional team together.”

The inaugural PWHL season begins January 2024 with exact details around the schedule, arena locations, and team branding still to be determined.