Female hockey players from the Southeast are enjoying the new Professional Women’s Hockey League, which saw its first season get underway this month. 

Cassidy Lesage plays for the Eastman Selects Female U18 team and shares her thoughts on this new league. 

“I’m super excited to watch the women’s games,” she says. “I love watching female hockey in the Olympics and I'm super happy that we can now watch it more often in a professional league.” 

Lesage adds that it is really exciting that playing professional hockey is now a possibility for female players. 

“I think it's really something that will inspire young girls to strive for. It's super exciting to watch Manitoba female players playing at this professional level,” she notes. “It's just super exciting that we now have the opportunity to go that far.” 

Lesage has found a role model in Ste. Anne player Jocelyne Larocque, a defenseman for Toronto

“It's so inspiring just seeing her on TV, and I've always looked up to her growing up in the same town that she did. I heard so many great things about her, and I knew I wanted to be like her. I've always worn the jersey #3, and she's the reason for that. She also had a big impact on the way I play. I'm a defense just like her, and I've always tried to imitate her style of play.” 

Larocque has a strong defensive play, Lesage says, “and she's big and strong. Which I really admire because you have to be tough when you’re defense.” 

Mackenzie Waddell also plays for the Selects Female U18 team, and says this new league gives female hockey players a new dream. 

“Growing up, I thought that you could only go to college or university hockey and then you’re done,” she says. 

It’s safe to say that Waddell is now a fan of Toronto’s PWHL team because one of their forwards is Natalie Spooner, someone Waddell looks up to, having watched Spooner play for Canada in the Olympics. 

Lauren Warkentin, assistant coach for Eastman Selects U18 female hockey team, has a few friends and former opponents playing in the new league. 

“It makes me really happy to see them have somewhere that they can make a livable wage playing hockey and it just reinforces that it’s really possible that you can get there,” says the former University of Manitoba Bisons hockey player.

Lauren Warkentin on the ice during the U of M Bisons hockey game.Lauren Warkentin played for the University of Manitoba Bisons during the 21-22 season. (Photo submitted)

Warkentin offers some advice to girls who are thinking about becoming hockey players. 

“Don’t be afraid to give it a try,” she says. “There's some pretty amazing people that have helped grow the female hockey community, from coaches to mentors to refs and players, that are paving the way for the next generation. It can be a bit of an intimidating sport. It's very fast paced and high tempo, but it's definitely a sport that's more than just what happens on the ice. It teaches you some pretty great life skills about working with others and being a good teammate.” 

Warkentin adds that she has made many lifelong friends through hockey. 

-With files from Carly Koop.