Professional Women’s Hockey League
Stars, grit, and ‘chirping’: PWHLers tell us who they’re least looking forward to facingSeveral players on Montreal and Toronto picked each other when asked which player they’re least looking forward to playing against this season. The two teams face off for the first time on Saturday.
Several players on Montreal and Toronto picked each other — they’ll play for the 1st time Saturday
Karissa Donkin · for CBC Sports
· Posted: Jan 15, 2024 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: 4 hours ago
Montreal forward Erin Ambrose said she’s least looking forward to going up against Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull (pictured here), describing her as a ‘pain on the forecheck.’ (PWHL)Montreal vs. Toronto on a Saturday night.
It may be the start of a new great hockey rivalry when PWHL Montreal and Toronto finally get to face each other for the first time this weekend.
It’s a meeting players on both squads have circled on their calendar.
You can watch the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CBC Gem, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
Before the season started, CBC Sports asked more than 30 PWHL players which person they are least looking forward to going up against this season. A number of players in Toronto picked rivals in Montreal, while a number of Montreal players returned the favour.
For Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull, the answer was Montreal captain Marie-Philip Poulin, the type of player who can take a game into her hands and score a big goal when her team needs it most.
“It’s always fun to play against her because it’s always a challenge, but at the same time, she’s the most dangerous player in the world,” Turnbull said.
WATCH l PWHL players discuss which player they’re least looking forward to facing:
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“So you definitely have to keep your eye out for her whenever she’s on the ice and play her a bit harder than maybe you play other players. But it’s a fun challenge for me to go up against her. She’s very good.”
Toronto’s defenders will have to try to contain Poulin, so it’s no surprise some of them picked Montreal’s captain, too.
Jocelyne Larocque has spent more than a decade playing with Poulin on the national team, winning two Olympic gold medals and three world championships together. She quickly answered Poulin when asked.
For Toronto defender Allie Munroe, it’s a brand new experience. She’s never played a league game against Poulin, having spent two seasons in the Premier Hockey Federation and two in Sweden before that.
Munroe said it’s something she’s excited to take on.
“I’ll just say Poulin because she’s obviously one of the best players in the world,” Munroe said. “She’ll be tough to play against, but I think I’m up for the challenge.”
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Another popular answer among Toronto’s roster was Montreal forward Kristin O’Neill, a tenacious player who’s hard to get off the puck in the corners.
“She’s so quick and speedy, and she gets in hard on the forecheck and she doesn’t give up ever,” Toronto defender Renata Fast said of O’Neill.
“She’s a player that I don’t love playing against.”
‘She makes life very difficult’On the Montreal side, Poulin returned the favour to Toronto’s captain.
She said she’s looking forward to playing against her and forward Emma Maltais because they like to chirp each other.
Turnbull’s defensive style of play also came to mind for Montreal defender Erin Ambrose.
“She’s a pain on the forecheck, and an all-around 200-foot player, so she makes life very difficult,” Ambrose said.
Toronto’s top defensive pair of Larocque and Renata Fast have won two world championships and an Olympic gold medal by each other’s side. Montreal’s Laura Stacey has played with them both on the national team and with Team Adidas last year on the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association circuit.
Now, they’re on different sides.
Toronto defenders Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Fast were popular choices as players who others in the league are least excited to play against this season. (Aaron Dutra/CBC Sports)”They’re tough to play against,” Stacey said. “They’re hard working. They’re fast. They play physical. As a forward, going up against them every night, it doesn’t make your job easy. So I think those two are definitely the two that I’m the most not excited [to face].
“But I also am excited. I think it’s a great challenge every time we get to go up against them.”
‘She’s always in your pockets’Elsewhere in the league, New York forward Abby Roque’s name was a popular choice.
Before her Minnesota team faced off against Roque’s New York squad this past Sunday, forward Kelly Pannek wasn’t looking forward to seeing Roque’s skill on the ice and hearing her chirping.
Nor was Pannek’s Minnesota teammate Taylor Heise.
New York forward Abby Roque (left) battles during a game against Toronto. Her skill with the puck and chirping got her some votes as the player others are least looking forward to going up against this season. (Mark Blinch/Getty Images)”[Roque] in faceoffs, and her chirping and yelling and all that, I’m not looking forward to that,” Heise said before the season began.
“I love her to death. She’s one of my favourite people, one of the funniest people I know. But yeah, on the ice, probably not her.”
Other players picked some of the league’s top defenders.
“I’ll say [Ottawa’s] Savannah Harmon,” Boston forward Hilary Knight said. Her team will see Ottawa for the first time on Jan. 24.
“She’s always in your pockets. You’re trying to make a play in the corner, Sav’s just shutting it down. It can get pretty annoying as a forward if the D is right up there and always gapping you.”
Ottawa forward Brianne Jenner listed off New York’s Ella Shelton, Boston’s Megan Keller and Larocque.
“As a forward that’s trying to create offence, it’s always tougher going against those guys,” she said.
“But at the same time, it’s kind of who you look forward to playing against too because it’s a great challenge for you.”
For some players, like Munroe, there’s excitement that comes with facing off against new players.
With lots of players across the league who have come straight from college, and many others who’ve never played together before, players’ answer to who they’re least looking forward to going against might be very different by the end of the season.
“I’m just excited to try to play against everyone,” Munroe said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC’s Atlantic investigative unit. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.