PWHPA Dream Gap Tour continues with Toronto showcase

Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse, two members of the PWHPA, were named to Canada's roster for the 2020 Women's World Championships, which was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP)

This weekend, over 100 of the world’s best hockey players are hitting the ice in Toronto as part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s biggest showcase yet.

Two days, six teams, six games, 120 players, and one big goal in mind: to create a strong, sustainable future for women’s hockey.

"I think if you look at our objectives for the year, obviously our big goal at the end of this is we want to create a league but we have little objectives that we want to tick off and I think one of them was really bringing awareness to the cause that we’re going for right now, the current state of women’s hockey, because there is a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding," said Team Canada forward and PWHPA member Sarah Nurse.

Toronto is a natural landing spot for the Secret Women’s Hockey Showcase, taking place Jan. 11-12, as it was also the host city of the tour’s first-ever showcase event back in September upon its inception – a four-game exhibition taking aim at giving women’s hockey a bigger stage as they take a stand in hopes of a better future for the game. Since then, the organization has hosted several stops across Canada and the United States, including smaller regional events featuring games between members within various PWHPA chapters to bring local hockey fans out in several hockey communities.

"You look back to that first showcase in Toronto, there wasn’t a seat left open. That’s the kind of event we want to continue to build and show that if you build it, they’ll come," said Team USA star Kendall Coyne Schofield, who will serve as one of six team captains headlining this weekend’s six-game showcase.

Jocelyne Larocque, Amanda Kessel, Kacey Bellamy, Melodie Daoust and Natalie Spooner will captain the other five teams during this weekend’s event. Players in attendance include Brianne Jenner, Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianna Decker. There will also be a skills competition held at Nathan Phillips Square Sunday morning.

"I think what really hits home to us is when we see all these young girls in the stands, to see the product that’s in place and to see that they can dream to be in our skates one day – and that doesn’t mean your career abruptly ends after college," Coyne Schofield said.

That dream is what inspired the name of the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour, highlighting the gap that exists between what young boys and young girls have been able to dream about when it comes to their aspirations as hockey players.

"I think bringing awareness to where we are in women’s hockey is so incredibly important," said Nurse.

The PWHPA was formed last May following the closure of the CWHL which left the U.S.-based NWHL as the lone operating women’s professional league. Soon after, more than 200 players announced their intentions not to play in any professional league in North America this season as part of the #ForTheGame movement working towards creating one sustainable league – and a brighter future for girls in the game.

"I think the conversations have significantly progressed since last summer when the players association was formed and I think a lot of eyes have been opened and heads have been turned for those who are interested in supporting women’s hockey. We’ve seen so many NHL organizations support our group and continue to support our group and open their doors and want to help and build more sustainable future," said Coyne Schofield.

"So, the conversation has definitely progressed," she continued, "and I think it’s only going to continue to progress these next few months with the event that we have coming up, starting in Toronto."

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