Back in April, the NWHL announced that the city of Toronto would be home to the league’s newest team. YAY CANADA! YAY HOCKEY! YAY WOMEN!
Obviously, and as the NWHL’s press release stated, Toronto is the sports capital of Canada. They’re home to the NHL’s Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Raptors, MLB’s Blue Jays, the CFL’s Argonauts, and the TFC of Major League Soccer, among others. The one thing that was blatantly missing was a professional women’s sports team. Of any kind.
But not anymore! The Toronto Six are coming! Scratch that. The Toronto Six are HERE! The NWHL’s newest team has a roster, management, coaches, and just about everything they need to take this league – and this country – by storm. They have a sweet new logo, a new home rink (Canlan Ice Sports – York in North York), new coaches, and awesome new merch (some of which I had asked for at Christmas, but my usually reliable family let me down. You know who you are).
In a year when professional sports have experienced unprecedented complications, the popularity of women’s sports has increased significantly (Check out these pieces from Sports Illustrated and CNBC that prove my point). I’d say that the addition of the Toronto Six to the NWHL was perfect timing. There’s little doubt that the Six, as well as the NWHL as a whole, will enjoy higher viewership numbers this year, especially since the announcements that all games can be streamed via Twitch and the Isobel Cup semifinals and finals will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
Okay, now let’s discuss team leadership. Shiann Darkangelo is the Six’s first-ever team captain, with alternate captains Emma Woods and Emma Greco by her side. Having already having played more than 80 games over five years of professional hockey, Darkangelo is certainly qualified for the captaincy. During the 2018-19 season, she played for the Toronto Furies of the CWHL and scored 10 points in just 27 games. Back in the 2017-18 season, she skated for the Kunlan Red Star and brought home 18 points. “It’s an honour to be selected as a captain for the Toronto Six alongside Greco and Woods,” Darkangelo said. “We have a team full of leaders and I’m excited to do my part in bringing the Isobel Cup to Toronto.”
The new team President and Head Coach is none other than Margaret “Digit” Murphy. With career highlights that include playing hockey at Cornell University, 18 years as Brown University’s women’s hockey coach, coaching the Boston Blades and Kunlun Red Star of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and the title of 2013-14 CWHL Coach of the Year, there is no doubting Murphy’s skill or knowledge of the sport. With “…[a] personal and organization-wide mission to educate, empower, and include women and girls in sport,” the Six are being led towards greatness in Lake Placid by a true champion.
Alongside Digit Murphy is Gary Soper, a man with more than two decades’ experience as a coach, scout, and player development expert, and Spiros Anastas with his extensive background in hockey coaching and administration. There’s also Lisa Haley, who brings more than 20 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and international levels. I hope to someday know even a fraction of what these strong, dedicated people know about women’s hockey!
Not only do the Toronto Six have a kickass coaching staff and exceptional team leadership, but they’ve also already gained more than a few fans and supporters. Combined, they have more than 14,600 followers on Instagram and Twitter, plus more than 700 Facebook fans. This isn’t surprising considering the informative and sometimes comical content being posted on these social media accounts; once a month their “6 for 6” feature highlights “inspirational women in sport and business,” their “How it started vs. How it’s going” post in December was both exciting and clever, and rivalry – on the ice and online – with the Boston Pride is downright hilarious. They even have Spotify playlists! I don’t think there’s any aspect of social media – or media in general – that the Six have overlooked.
While it does seem like the Six have established a pretty solid fanbase, Covid has certainly put the kibosh on any ideas these fans may have had about going to watch the games in person. Although… sidenote! Yesterday the Six announced that ten members of the Toronto Blue Jays will be in Lake Placid to cheer on their city-mates! Well, technically they’ll be cardboard cut-outs, but we know the real Jays would be there in person if they could.
Anyway. Instead of selling tickets traditionally, the Six have come up with a sweet alternative: season memberships that include a cardboard cut-out of yourself that will go in the Lake Placid arena, a personal social media shout out from a player, an autographed player photo, access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content, and other super cool things. Kudos to their marketing team for putting together such a cool package!
It’s now only four more sleeps until the action begins in Lake Placid! Packing several months’ worth of hockey action into two weeks sounds intense, but the Six are obviously ready to go. They’ve been waiting – itching, I bet – since last April to show the world what they can do, and we/I have been waiting since last April for the same thing. We know the Six are ready. And so are we.
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