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Hailey Browne Becomes Unique Part of Professional Women’s Hockey History

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Of all the players selected in the 2015 edition of the CWHL Draft, Hailey Browne may have been the most historic. Taking into account that the Draft class included the likes of Brianne Jenner, Marie-Philip Poulin and the immortal Hayley Wickenheiser, it is a very unique situation.

Having begun her NCAA career at Mercyhurst University, the same school that has produced current CWHL talent such as Furies captain Michelle Bonello, Brampton sniper Jesse Scanzano and Inferno forward Bailey Bram, Bailey would finish her career with the Maine Black Bears. Raised in Oakville, Ontario, she registered five points in her first season at Mercyhurst.

Afterwards, she spent three seasons at Maine, where she improved on her point total in every season. Her final NCAA goal came on February 21, 2015 in a contest against Connecticut. In the aftermath of her senior seasons, she achieved career highs in goals, assists and points.

Browne also shares another unique connection in this year’s CWHL Draft. Of note, she was the teammate of first overall pick Sarah Edney on three separate occasions. Not only were the two teammates with the PWHL’s Mississauga Jr. Chiefs, the two also played together for Team Canada at the 2011 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, and with Team Ontario at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Both culminated in silver medal efforts.

Earlier in the summer, Browne signed a player contract with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts. Part of a growing number of Canadian-born players that have signed with the team, including Shelby Bram and Devon Skeats, Browne now becomes the first player signed to an NWHL contract that was drafted by a CWHL team afterwards. The first selection of the ninth round, Browne was drafted by the Brampton Thunder.

Although the selection of Browne adds to a unique chapter in the history of the CWHL and NWHL sharing the pro hockey landscape, it does not need to be a point of tension. Perhaps this may become a growing trend in the near future.

During the 1960’s, the presence of both the American Football League and the National Football League resulted in hundreds of players being drafted by both leagues. In the subsequent decade, the NHL and the emerging World Hockey Association engaged in a similar situation in the acquisition of player’s rights.

Many players jumped from one league to another, knowing that if they were not happy, there was an option to go elsewhere. Should this be part of the future in women’s hockey, it may be unprecedented, but it is a reality that needs to be considered.

As the NWHL drafts players after their junior year of college, whereas the CWHL opts for players that have completed their senior seasons, as early as next year, players may eventually drafted by both leagues. This year, Erin Ambrose and Emerance Maschmeyer (who have also played with the Canadian national team) were selected by the NWHL. There is nothing to stop them from registering for the 2016 CWHL Draft.

Taking into account that so many young players from Canada and Europe compete in the NCAA, it may not be uncommon to remain in America for a few more years to compete in the NWHL. Afterwards, the player may become homesick and opt to return home, possibly making the CWHL Draft even more of a science, as teams will need to consider the option of higher picks for younger prospects or the more experienced players. 

Image obtained from: http://hockeyphotography.photoshelter.com/image/I0000ByMj2kQit8U

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