Blayre Turnbull has a message for people who enjoyed the Olympic women's hockey gold-medal game.
"I hope the right people were watching our game tonight. I know back in North America we probably had millions and millions of people watching," the Canadian forward said during a press conference hours after her team beat the United States 3-2 in Beijing on Thursday.
"Hopefully they saw the talent we have and the competitiveness we have within us. I'm hoping we get the respect we deserve and that respect is a professional league for us to play in and one where we don’t have to work other jobs or we don’t have to rely on sponsors so that we can solely focus on hockey. I think something has to be happening here soon in order for our sport to keep growing."
The future direction of women's hockey continues to be a talking point -- and the players can only hope another exciting Canada-USA showdown can help push the sport forward when it comes to professional opportunities.
While the Premier Hockey Federation recently announced it is than doubling each teams’ salary cap to $750,000 and adding two expansion franchises next season, Canadian and U.S. players have so far balked at joining North America’s lone professional women’s hockey league.
“I think any time we see growth in women’s hockey, we as players are excited about that. That commitment is a really exciting thing," Canadian forward Brianne Jenner said.
"We want to see the success of that league but also want to see something that is going to stand the test of time and give players the proper training environment to be professionals with the proper support and the proper marketing."
The Canadian Women's Hockey League's demise in 2019 led to the world’s top players forming the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association in a united bid to establish a single North American professional league — ideally backed by the NHL — with a long-term sustainable economic model.
The PWHPA has spent the past two years holding a series of barnstorming weekend events called the “Dream Gap Tour” across North America.
"I think the best thing for our sport would be a sustainable professional league," Jenner said. "I know that's something we're all committed to. I really think this tournament showed how great our sport is and where the skill level is at right now."
Canada coach Troy Ryan thinks another pro league would be good for a number of reasons.
“I think one is they deserve the opportunity to play in a professional league. ... I also think it’s a viable business plan that if someone was smart they would back it and support it and make it possible," he said.
Another issue is increasing the competitiveness of other countries.
Canada and the U.S. dominated the competition for most of the event.
“I think a huge part of our success last four years is the commitment us as players have had to each other and to the game but also level of investment Hockey Canada has put into us. ... As I look to other countries around the world, it's definitely going to take NSO's stepping up and investing in their women's programs," Canadian forward Sarah Nurse said.
-- With files from The Associated Press