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5 Manitobans picked in inaugural PWHL draft inspiring next generation of hockey players

This year was full of uncertainty after two competing women’s hockey leagues dissolved, leaving professional athletes without a team.

“It’s for sure been kind of a roller-coaster,” said Kristen Campbell, who played in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.

But a combination of player determination and new investors led to the launch of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, a new organization made up of six teams and 150 players.

Monday night the PWHL held its inaugural draft.

Campbell, from Brandon, Man., was the 14th overall pick. She’s proud to be part of history.

“When you’re a little girl, you never could’ve imagined something like this happening and it was never possible when we were growing up,” Campbell said. “It was pretty special, too, yesterday to have my name called out by a little girl who now can dream of playing in the PWHL one day.”

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Four other Manitobans were drafted, including second-overall pick Jocelyne Laroque, Ashton Bell, Kati Tabin and Corinne Schroeder.

Both Schroeder and Tabin attended Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg. This draft is already inspiring teenage athletes at their alma mater.

“It’s definitely something that the girls talk about. First and foremost at our school, they’re student-athletes so they know that university and college is where they are going but now to have something to aspire to after that is something that a lot of them are really, really excited about,” said Regan Boulton, interim director of hockey and head coach at Balmoral Hall.

The inspiration doesn’t stop there.

University of Manitoba assistant coach Jordyn Zacharias, who played professionally herself, believes this will open doors for university athletes too.

“Now knowing that our players have a chance to move on and actually make hockey a career and strive for that, I know a lot of them are very excited not only for themselves but for younger generations as well,” Zacharias said.

The puck will drop on the PWHL season in January with a 24-game season.

The new league is creating stability for current players and higher aspirations for the next generation of athletes.

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