By Cole Parkinson
It took until 2021, but a female hockey player has finally been drafted in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The OHL was founded in 1980 and in this year’s Priority Selection Draft, the Sarnia Sting took goaltender Taya Currie in the 14th round, 267th overall.
The 16-year-old netminder from Parkhill, ON, is currently a member of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs triple-A bantam boys’ under-16 team, but due to the pandemic, did not get to play at all this season — like many players. Despite the setbacks the pandemic has brought, many players, including Currie, were able to realize their dreams of playing pro hockey with the recent drafts across major junior.
According to the Sting, Currie drew scout attention due to her quickness, competitiveness and determination. In the 2019-20 season, Currie posted a shutout and a goals-against average of 3.19 in 16 games.
But being 16, she’s a long shot to crack the Sting roster right off the bat, as 16-year-old goalies are rare across the Canadian Hockey League. She also has the opportunity to go the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) route, and if she played in an OHL game, that would negate her ability to play in college.
But despite what route she chooses, it is long overdue for a female player to be drafted and given an opportunity.
From everything I’ve read and watched, it seems like Currie is more than capable of taking her game to the next level and if she continues to develop, I don’t see any reason she can’t get an opportunity in the O.
With major junior hockey leagues dating back to 1966 (Western Hockey League), it’s a surprise it’s taken this long to see a female player drafted.
Many females grow up playing boys hockey, and while some transfer over to female teams, many continue to play with boys for their entire minor hockey career.
Currie may stand on her own in terms of females drafted in the CHL, but there have been two other females who have suited up.
In the 1991-92 season, goaltender Manon Rheaume played one game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs. Rheaume was also the only woman to ever play in the National Hockey League, as she tended the blue crease in exhibition games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and 1993.
More recently, Shannon Szabados dressed for a game with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL.
Now, Currie has a chance to be the first full-time goaltender for a CHL team.
I think it’s hard to state how many great female athletes there are, and I believe this is just the first of many who enter into traditionally male-only leagues. If Currie goes to the OHL, it shows she cannot only hang — but play at an elite level, why couldn’t she be drafted by an NHL team?
Her career is still just beginning, but even getting drafted is a huge compliment to her skills as a goalie, and I think many young female athletes are going to look up to her.
And it doesn’t even have to be female hockey players — I think any female playing sports alongside males can see what she’s done and see that it is possible to breakthrough.
Why can’t females play in these massive leagues whether it be the NHL, Major League Baseball, National Baseball Association, any of the massive soccer leagues across the world or even the National Football League or Canadian Football League?
Of course, there’s still a long path until any of that happens, but Currie being drafted shows teams are looking at female athletes to improve their team. A ton of sports organizations in North America have been traditionally male-dominated, but many have started to hire females in plenty of different roles, and it’s long overdue.
Like any other job, the best person available should be hired, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation. And let’s hope Currie isn’t the last female to be drafted in a male sports league.
I fully expect a full-time female athlete to make a pro sports team in North America in my lifetime — it’s just a matter of time.