Toronto will once again be part of an original six hockey circuit.
Now all the Professional Women’s Hockey League franchise needs is a name, a roster and a rink. All in good time after a six-pack of cities was announced on Tuesday; Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, New York and Minnesota are in, for now all owned by the league itself.
General managers and coaches will be announced in the next few days, each will sign three players and a full league draft will be held Sept. 15.
The Toronto Six were part of the Premier Hockey Federation and won an Isobel Cup championship last season, but the PHF ceased operation in June, so this long-awaited, financially viable league with salaries could end years of divisiveness among the top female players about how best to market themselves and the game.
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On Tuesday, the NHL also posted a message of support and co-operation, which the PWHL will need going forward.
The Six had played at Canlan Ice Sports at York University, but the yet-to-be named successor could be located in one of the Ontario Hockey League’s GTA sites, such as Mississauga. But there is already talk in Ottawa and Minnesota about the possibility of staging some games in their NHL rinks, thus the Leafs might open Coca-Cola Coliseum or Scotiabank Arena, perhaps as a doubleheader on select dates with the Marlies and Leafs.
Some PWHL games will likely be played at neutral sites to increase interest.
TURNING THE CONNOR
Connor Bedard is a first among equals at this week’s BioSteel NHL training camp in Halifax.
But having not yet played an NHL game, the top pick in the 2023 draft is deferring to fellow No. 1 picks like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon as he takes in off-ice training and scrimmages at the high-performance clinic.
“McDavid is giving me good advice,” Bedard said in a Tuesday Zoom call with the media. “Nothing crazy specific, but about what to expect. It’s not an easy league, it’s the best in the world.
“He’s unbelievable (to watch). But I’m just trying to be my own player. I’ve worked hard all summer to improve myself.”
Coming off 243 regular season points with the Regina Pats his final two Western Hockey League seasons, Bedard is looking forward to Blackhawks camp, his appetite whetted earlier this summer by developmental camp as he got his first look at Chicago.
“Going around seeing the city, it’s cool,” he said. “Not just its history with sports, but everything going on. I’m pretty excited to get back. There are nerves, but it’s excitement. I just want to live in the moment and prepare myself best for camp, make the most of the days leading up to it.”
His regular season living arrangements, perhaps with a veteran, are not yet set. Captain Jonathan Toews is not going to be part of the team, at least for a while, but Corey Perry and Nick Foligno have been in touch.
“Nick has been checking on me every two weeks,” Bedard said. “I’ve heard from every single person. It’s good for me that guys who have been in the league so long (care about him), like Taylor Hall.”
MAKAR MAKING HIS MARK AGAIN
There have been eight different winners of the Norris Trophy since 2016, but a healthy Cale Makar would be a good bet to get his name back on the trophy as a new season beckons.
Missing 22 games last year, he still finished with almost a third of the votes from the Professional Hockey Writers Association in what would’ve given him the first consecutive nods as top defenceman since the Nicklas Lidstrom era. Erik Karlsson took his third Norris last year, having last earned it in 2015, with 2021 winner Adam Fox the runner-up.
Makar, 24, is at the Bio-Steel camp and said he’s making the most of a long summer after his Colorado Avalanche were dislodged as Stanley Cup champs in the first round by Seattle.
“Everything was in super-speed mode,” Makar said of his club’s 2022’s short off-season. “We were banged up. (Now) guys have taken advantage of this extra month. Mentally, it can give us a break and guys can resettle.”
NO FAKE ID
Matt Martin told the New York Post that he expects the Islanders’ well weathered “Identity Line” to be back again when the season opens. Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas have been regulars since Martin returned from a short stint with the Leafs in 2018. The final word will be up to coach Lane Lambert.
“I obviously have a lot of history with those two and love playing with those two,” Martin said. “On paper, I would imagine it starts that way. As players, we still have to come to camp ready to go and earn our spots. Nothing’s guaranteed.”