Reflecting on ‘heartbreaking’ NWHL bubble season suspension

Head coach Digit Murphy talks about the NWHL season ending but explains why she is optimist the team and the league will be back.

Lindsay Eastwood is a rookie blueliner on the Toronto Six, the NWHL’s newest franchise. She has been blogging for Sportsnet throughout the league’s bubble season, which was suspended Wednesday on the eve of the playoffs.

The stage was set, and NBCSN crews were arriving for the NWHL debut on national television. Amazing athletes and staff were ready to explode into mainstream sport. Momentum was at an all-time high, and then — boom — we had to slam on the brakes.

It was late Tuesday night when I heard rumblings of COVID-19 positives around the league. I was getting anxious — very anxious — because I knew if we hit a certain threshold, the season would not go on. All I wanted to do was play until the end, and, sure, eventually hoist the Isobel Cup. Unfortunately, that threshold was met, and the league had no choice but to put our health and safety above all.

Even though the door has yet to officially slam shut on the season and we still hope to finish the playoffs at some point, it was extremely disappointing to see the bubble suspended — largely because I went in with no doubt that we would make it to the end. We followed all the safety protocols and did our due diligence while playing our hearts out.

But what is most heartbreaking is the Six were hot. We were on a four-game win streak. We had so much momentum heading into our semi-final game, which was slated to be against the Buffalo Beauts. We were “scoring goals and eating pancakes,” as coach Digit Murphy likes to say.

This was the best team I have ever played on — top to bottom the deepest roster I have ever been a part of. It says a lot when three of our best players were out of the lineup for a few games, and we still dominated. Not to mention our morale off the ice, which was unmatched.

It starts with our post-win dance parties that included everyone — even the staff. We genuinely couldn’t see enough of each other. On off days when we had nothing to do team-wise, we would hop on Zoom together to chat. A couple of the girls even threw together a Six-themed trivia challenged with questions about each of our teammates.

We may have been a brand-new team playing in a short season, but we were as close as any team — even ones that regularly get to occupy the same room all at once.

In all seriousness, it feels like we have been teammates for years.

I sincerely believe the reason we kept such great composure throughout the bubble season was because we were built on adversity. Our organization started from scratch in the middle of a global pandemic. We did our training outside in zero-degree weather. We only practised seven times as a full team.

We entered an abnormal season never having played a game together, and had our game times changed last minute, and, might I add, never complained once. We just flexed and flowed through whatever was thrown at us and played hard.

I am extremely proud of the Toronto Six from top to bottom. Everyone from our owners to our coaching staff were absolute professionals. My amazing teammates made my first season of pro so much fun.

To our fans and everyone who contributed to the huge streaming numbers on Twitch, you all are incredible and are a major part of the growth of women’s hockey. It has been so humbling to see this many people support our team and our league. We are always accepting fans on the Six bandwagon, so don’t be shy. We have unfinished business to take care of, and we can’t do it without you.

For now, we will have to settle for clinching the top seed of the season. But we want more, and we’ll get more, because we’re not done yet. Hopefully see you all for the 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs in the near future.

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