Victoria Bach will be at the inaugural game of the PWHL on New Year’s Day at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. And like many of the women in attendance, she will be fulfilling a life-long goal of seeing come to life the kind of sustainable professional women’s hockey league of which she has always dreamed.
But Bach, 27, will be a spectator for this one and will remain so for the month of January. She will practise with the team until she makes her own PWHL regular-season debut on Feb. 3 when Toronto hosts Minnesota.
The arrival of the new league happened to coincide with the final stages of another life-long goal that had begun previously for Bach and could not be put off.
Through the co-operation of the PWHL, PWHL Toronto and Brock University where she is completing her teacher’s college certification, Bach will be able to both complete the qualifications necessary to teach in Ontario and follow her hockey dreams, albeit later than the rest.
“With it being my last year of teacher’s college, me backing that close to being done — like I said I’m done in February — it was something that I wanted to finish,” Bach said of her schooling. “I have been in this for two years now and it was right at the finish line.”
But Bach was equally clear that she did not want to see this opportunity to play hockey at the highest professional level women have ever had, pass her by, either.
“I’ve dreamt of this league my whole life and it’s pretty exciting that I will get to join the team and play in February and get to still practise with them through January,” she said. “But it’s pretty awesome that both my school and hockey will be able to work out for me this year.”
Bach knows this puts her in a unique situation and she is forever grateful to all the parties that made this possible.
She was able to accompany the team and play all three games in Utica where the league convened for a five-day pre-season camp in early December. It was invaluable bonding time for someone who has been unable to be an every-day presence around the team.
“Getting that chance was definitely huge and very special,” she said. “It also made me very hungry and excited to get this season going and to get the chance to step on the ice and put on that jersey. The countdown is on and I’m super-excited.”
All that said, Bach had a ton of familiarity with the Toronto franchise and its parts long before they ever got together.
The only teammate she can say with certainty that she has never played with is Kali Flanagan, the Boston-area defender who she recalls playing against when Flanagan was with Boston College and Bach suited up for Boston University.
The only other American on the Toronto team, Jesse Compher was both a teammate and a linemate of Bach’s at Boston University. Among the Canadians, the bonds go back years.
“There’s a couple of special ones that we go way back,” Bach said. “Hannah Miller and Rebecca Leslie, we won an under-18 world championship together for the first time playing with Team Canada so we have those memories we can share. To finally be back playing on the same team (years later) is pretty special.
“So, yes, lots of history,” Bach said. “It’s kind of like a reunion and a kind of like a dream come true getting a chance to players who have been stars in all different leagues and all around the world. For us to be able to come together and be teammates, it’s pretty cool and I’m pretty excited.”
Even head coach Troy Ryan is very familiar to Bach and vice-versa having shared benches representing Canada internationally.
Ryan and his staff will have the month of January to fully acclimate Bach into the fold before she sees game action in February. There is no questionning her abilities and talent, to say nothing of her Olympic gold medal and two world championship gold-medal experiences, will bolster an already talented roster.
Bach can’t wait for it all to get started.
“To finally get the chance to do this thing that I have always dreamt of since I was a young kid and being from the Toronto area and this community is going to be so special,” Bach said.
“Just to get the chance to go to the rink and see the young girls and boys I have had the chance to coach and knowing that they have look up to me, I think that is something that will really motivate me and make me want to continue to show them what we have and what we can offer.
“That is something that’s really important to me.”