After years of patience, Poulin sees momentum in women's hockey
Canada's Olympic hero hopes her sport can 'create something that's bigger'
Three-time Olympic gold medallist Marie-Philip Poulin said she was optimistic about the future of women's professional hockey after a meeting between the National Hockey League (NHL) and two key factions in the sport.
The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA) met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York last week in an effort to bring the two sides together, after years of speculation over the potential for a unified league.
"There is momentum for women's hockey right now, just depending where that momentum goes, what we want to do as a group," said Poulin, who led Canada to a 3-2 victory over the United States in the Olympic final last month.
WATCH | Canadian women's hockey team defeats U.S. to capture gold:
The PHF — formerly the National Women's Hockey League — was once seen as North America's sole pro option. But the creation of the PWHPA, which puts on showcases of women's hockey and provides training and programming opportunities for players, attracted some of the sport's brightest talent, including Poulin.
She is one of more than 200 players who joined the PWHPA when it launched in 2019, aiming to reshape the trajectory of the sport.
Poulin said she was not at the meeting but that she and her contemporaries at the PWHPA were working to "create something that's bigger, that's never happened before." She added: "And it's either with the PHF or not."
The PHF did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.
"Obviously that meeting happened. Some meetings [in the past] with the NHL where nothing happened, and then we try to be patient," Poulin told Reuters.
"I think we're almost there. We're being patient. We're being patient — it's been a long three years. It has been frustrating. Like it's something we want to do and want to create because we truly believe that we deserve it."
Poulin wants more inclusion in hockey
The 31-year-old captain of the Canadian Olympic team — who scored the game-winning goal for the gold medal in Beijing — has taken her advocacy for inclusion in hockey to the local rinks where she first fell in love with the sport.
Poulin is serving as ambassador for Kraft Hockeyville, an annual contest that since 2006 has assisted communities in Canada to restore their local hockey arenas.
With nominations open through April 3, the program this year will award the winner with $250,000 for arena upgrades and a chance to host an NHL preseason game.
"Year after year we're getting better to make [hockey] more inclusive," said Poulin, who said the program was all the more important after the COVID-19 pandemic particularly prevented younger athletes from hitting the ice.
"Every time you have a chance to have programs that help people play hockey to try to make them come to the rink, I think it's very important."