Lindsay Eastwood is a rookie blueliner on the Toronto Six, the NWHL’s newest franchise. She’ll be blogging for Sportsnet throughout the league’s bubble season, taking place from Jan. 23 to Feb. 5.
The tune-up games are over and we are officially getting down to business. As a brand-new team, the first few games were crucial for development, especially in a condensed season like this. We knew coming into the tournament it wasn’t going to be easy and it was going to take some time to get a feel for each other on the ice in game situations.
We felt the brunt of that in the first two games, coming up short. After losing a 4-1 lead against Minnesota in what you might call Toronto sports style, we made sure to change that narrative against Boston. The pieces came together in the third contest as we topped the Pride 2-1 for our first-ever win as a franchise.
That had to be our hardest game we played yet. The Pride were fast and skilled; they also had a ton of chemistry. Right from my first shift I could tell they were going to be a tough matchup. My defence partner, Megan Quinn, and I made at least 3 D-to-D passes before we could find a winger to break it out to. The Pride had us hemmed in our zone for over a minute and I like to keep my shifts around 45 seconds. Quinny was the hero of that shift, as she eventually chipped it past their first and second forechecker up to our winger to get it out of the zone and we went for a much-needed change.
Our first win was a hard-earned one. We spent a third of the game on the penalty kill. We killed off all but one, going 1-for-7. On the flip side we had five power plays and converted on one. Special teams really throw off the flow of the game and often disorganize the lines. Good thing our motto this season is “Flex and Flow”, which is exactly what we have been doing on and off the ice during this crazy year.
I almost forgot how fun it is to win. When we got off the ice, we all were going back-and-forth on what our win song should be. This groundbreaking moment deserved the perfect song to capture the emotions of the win.
We landed on the iconic Tik Tok Taylor Swift, Love Story (Discolines remix). This song really got the girls out of their seats, with our proclaimed grandma of the team Julie Allen leading the charge. She undeniably takes the cake for best dance moves, although coach Digit Murphy gave her a run for her money as she joined right in for the post-win celebration dancing.
The very next day we had a schedule change and we were back in game mode for a quick turnaround against the Buffalo Beauts. Energy was low leading up to this battle of the QEW. We had come off a late game the night before and it would be our fourth game in five days. I haven’t played that much hockey in that tight of a schedule since high school, and the games were much shorter back then.
However, coach never fails to bring the energy. For her pre-game speech she came in with these tiny hands and did a pterodactyl dance down the aisle of players. Needless to say, that got us fired right up. Coach Digit always has something cooking up her sleeve. Her pre-game speeches have become my favourite part of game day because you never know what she’s going to do to pump us up. Before our game against Minnesota, she had all three coaches in the dance circle.
We learned quickly during the Beauts matchup that no game in this league will be a walk in the park. After the first, we blasted the tunes and found a second wind. We picked it up and the momentum swung our way. We rode on that energy and eventually topped the Beauts 4-2 to put ourselves third in the standings.
Our two days off were well-earned. I needed some major recovery on those off days.
My body may have gotten some rest, but my brain didn’t. Throughout the two-week bubble, I have been working my day job remotely. I do project management with Critical Mass, a digital marketing agency. They granted me this job in support of me playing professional hockey. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to juggle playing hockey at this level while continuing to work. But for now that is just what women have to do for the love of the game.
We are now halfway through this bubble season and nearly through the preliminary rounds. The Six have found their groove and win song! I am ready to play the games that really count now and send it all the way to the Isobel Cup.