PHF on deck with All-Star Showcase — Holly Morrison chats background, Toronto Six — Must-click women’s hockey links
The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, January 28, 2022
After a brief, planned stint in Toronto that never actually came to fruition, the PHF sixth annual All-Star Showcase and thirty-six All-Stars (plus EBUG Carly Jackson) are headed to Buffalo, New York, this weekend.
The showcase will feature a bit of a different format than what you might be accustomed to seeing in the hockey world and in the NWHL/PHF of years past. For one, league brass has done away with the skills competition, meaning that the entire showcase is basically comprised of three fifteen-minute games of hockey between three teams…and that’s it. The champions of the showcase will be crowned based on the total number of goals scored throughout their two games.
Each of the three All-Star teams is captained by a player who currently is on the leadership team for their own local squad: Jillian Dempsey (Boston Pride), Shiann Darkangelo (Toronto Six), and Allie Thunstrom (Minnesota Whitecaps). Each team was handpicked by the players themselves in a snake-format draft that saw Shiann Darkangelo select Mikyla Grant-Mentis with the first overall pick.
You can watch the full video of the captains making their first six picks below:
The rest of the teams would materialize the next day, with the PHF announcing the full roster for each squad on Twitter. You can see the full rosters, along with their honorary celebrity coaches, here.
The showcase will be streamed live on January 29 on ESPN+ in the United States and TSN/TSN Direct in Canada. Audiences outside of North America should check with their ESPN International Distribution network.
Editor’s note: Subscribers, watch for the Zoom link in your email. Excited to see you!
This Week in Women’s Hockey
A look back at the first NWHL All-Star Weekend (The Ice Garden)
Five at the IX: Holly Morrison
The IX sat down with the ever-gracious and articulate Holly Morrison, journalist for The Ice Garden and student at Brock University, to chat with her about her career and her hopes for women’s professional hockey.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your background in sports media — what degree you’re pursuing at
school, how you’re involved with the hockey community, etc.
Holly Morrison: I actually had no idea that I wanted to work in sports media when I first started university. I was going to school for a totally unrelated degree and the idea that I could work in sports had never even crossed my mind, I just never thought that I was the kind of person who could even consider working in sports. In my first year, I applied for a job with my school’s newspaper working in the sports section. I honestly didn’t think I’d get it, I had no relevant experience, but I ended up getting hired and that’s how it all started.
My first real beat was the women’s hockey team at Brock and I just fell in love with it. Going to the rink every weekend became something that I looked forward to more than anything else, even if the team wasn’t doing so hot all the time. In my second year I got put on the men’s hockey beat as well, but the women’s team was really where it all started. I owe a whole lot of thanks to Margot Page, who’s the head coach of the women’s team at Brock, for always talking to me and being super patient even when I had no idea what I was doing. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without that first season with the Brock women’s hockey team in 2018.
I actually got to the point some time in 2019 where I was skipping classes to go to games and events. I decided to just kind of dive into the whole sports media thing in November of 2019. She has absolutely no idea that this happened, but Tara Slone had been gracious enough to do an interview with me for an article I was writing about a Rogers Hometown Hockey event in the area. As soon as we hung up I was like “okay, so this is what I want to
do for as long as I can make it work,” and the next week I was submitting the papers to change my major.
Q: Growing up as a hockey fan in Ontario, you were able to witness the rise and fall of the CWHL and its local teams, along with the subsequent emergence of the PHF’s Toronto Six. What has it been like for you to watch the women’s professional hockey landscape in Ontario evolve?
Morrison: I’ve told this story before, but the day that the CWHL folded, I was in my first year of university and had only just sort of realised that maybe one day I could work in sports, and specifically women’s hockey. I was a big Toronto Furies fan, and just a few months earlier I’d gone to the CWHL All Star Game in Toronto and had such a good time.
Finding out that the CWHL had folded so suddenly sucked. I remember getting texts from my friends who were legitimately concerned asking how I was doing, which is funny in hindsight, but at the time it definitely felt like a rug had been pulled out from underneath all of us.
When the PHF announced the Toronto expansion, I was super excited. I’d been watching the PWHPA games, but there’s something about having one specific team to root for that makes the experience of watching a sport more fun for me as a fan.
I remember being a kid watching Leafs games with my dad and asking him why there were no girls on the ice. He kind of just shrugged and told me that girls don’t really play professional hockey the same way that boys do. So to go from that time, when I had no idea that anyone other than men could play professional hockey, to now seeing a professional team in Toronto, and seeing these players get recognition more often than every four years at the Olympics has been amazing.
Q: You’ve had a firsthand look at the trials and successes of the Toronto Six. What have you learned since you began covering the team, and how has it impacted your perception of professional hockey in Canada?
Morrison: I’ve been covering this team pretty much since the beginning and it’s been a wild experience. My main takeaway from covering the Toronto Six and the PHF more broadly has been just how many talented hockey players there are in the world. Players who might never crack an Olympic roster are still incredibly skilled and fun to watch, and they really do deserve places to play and be fairly compensated for that.
It’s also just so cool to get to go to the games and be walking from the parking lot to the front door and overhear a little kid talking their parent’s ear off about why Mikyla Grant-Mentis is the best hockey player ever. Knowing that just 10 years ago, someone like Grant-Mentis might not have many options to keep playing after college, and then seeing her succeed and have so many fans at this professional level has really hammered home, to me, how
important it is to have these leagues.
It’s also important to understand the problems that exist within teams, and leagues and hockey culture as a whole. I want as many people as possible to be able to play hockey at an elite level, and there needs to be a lot more done everywhere, but definitely here in Canada to make hockey a sport that doesn’t cast out and hurt people who don’t fit the mould of what a hockey player is “supposed” to be.
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