Toronto 6IX brings women’s professional hockey back to Canada

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Sports

Canada’s first National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) team, The Toronto Six joins the NWHL for its inaugural year.

(Courtesy Toronto Six)

The National Women’s Hockey League has stayed in the U.S. during the past five years. Following the collapse of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) after the 2018-2019 season, the founder of the NWHL Dani Rylan made it a priority that the NWHL would expand into Canada.

For the upcoming season, the league will see its first expansion franchise in Canada’s biggest hockey market, Toronto, the city where the CWHL’s Toronto Furies once played.

The team’s home arena will be at York University.

The collapse of the CWHL also led to the discontinued operations of the teams in Calgary, Markham, Montreal, Worcester, Mass., and the league had also expanded into China for two seasons before it folded.

Alyssa Turner, social media manager for the Toronto Six, said there’s an opportunity to grow with the NWHL after the team’s inclusion to the league was announced in April.

“We aspire to build a perennial Isobel Cup contender for Toronto,” said Johanna Neilson Boynton, leader of the Six’s team ownership, in a statement in April. “This will be an organization with strong fan, community and corporate support, outstanding coaching, training, and player development, and a club dedicated to promoting hockey as a game for everyone.

“We are launching this team now because we believe in the future,” she said.

Boynton said the team and the league are driven to increase opportunities available to women’s hockey players of all ages, “and that’s what this expansion is all about. There is so much potential, and Toronto is the logical next step.”

Turner said the NWHL had teams in the U.S. prior to expansion, in New York City, Boston, Buffalo, Minnesota and Connecticut.

“A team in Canada leads to a larger audience and more media coverage,” she said.

The team increases the potential of bringing more media coverage for the NWHL, Turner said.

The future of women’s hockey became unclear after the fall of the CWHL, but with the announcement, the Toronto Six instilled hope back into women hockey players in Canada.

The Six will not only be representing themselves but will be symbolizing women’s hockey in Canada and creating an opportunity for professional women’s hockey for younger generations.

Margaret “Digit” Murphy, coach and team president of the Toronto Six, said there’s an opportunity to send various messages on women’s hockey in Canada.

“As Canada’s team, there is huge growth and opportunity, inclusion, empowerment, opportunity,” Murphy said.

The expansion may give the chance to open doors locally and in Canada for women’s hockey, both for professional players and aspiring players who are looking to take it to the next level.

The team entering the league began to gain traction on social media after Murphy signed with the team. Its social media account has already gained more than 600 followers since the hiring.

Murphy, the former coach of the CWHL’s Boston (later Worchester) Blades, won the Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015. She was also the head coach for the Kunlun Red Star, one of the Chinese expansion teams, and lost the championship to Markham Thunder in 2018.