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Wahnapitae member suiting up for PWHL’s New York franchise – Anishinabek News

Abby Roque, a member of Wahnapitae First Nation, is suiting up for the New York franchise in the Professional Women’s Hockey League this season. –

By Sam Laskaris

Abby Roque’s hockey resume includes Olympic and world championship medals.

And now Roque, a member of Wahnapitae First Nation in Northern Ontario, can officially state that she is a professional hockey player.

Roque, a 26-year-old, is a forward with the New York franchise in the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), which is in its first season of operations.

“A lot of us were playing ‘pro’ for a number of years but it wasn’t the pro we needed it to be,” Roque said. “And the level of commitment from sponsors and money-wise it wasn’t what we needed it to be.”

Roque had graduated in 2020 from Wisconsin University following a stellar collegiate career, but afterwards, she did not join a squad in the then pro National Women’s Hockey League, which was renamed the Premier Hockey Federation.

Instead, Roque played a couple of seasons in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association tours. Those in the association were working towards a financially sustainable pro league.

And that’s what they believe they now have in the PWHL. Besides New York, the six-team circuit also includes franchises in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, and Minnesota.

Numerous league matches have been well-attended. More than 19,000 fans showed up for a Toronto-Montreal contest held at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena in mid-February.

Roque praised the fan support throughout the league following New York’s 2-1 shootout loss on Feb. 23 against Toronto. That contest was held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto.

Roque also raved about other aspects of the PWHL.

“It’s been great to see how many people have shown up,” she said. “And to see the amount of support from the sponsors coming in, from our owners making sure that we are doing everything we can to continue to grow it. It’s obviously done extremely well at the gate and we’re just excited to watch it grow.”

Roque was obviously disappointed her squad was unable to register a victory over Toronto in its Feb. 23 match.

“I think we should have won that game earlier, if we had just popped in one,” she said. “We’ve had a bit of a problem being snake-bitten with scoring. We just have to put those away and work on that in practice.”

Roque has earned eight points (two goals and six assists) in her first 12 matches with the New York team.

None of the PWHL clubs have monikers other than the cities they represent. The New York side actually practices in Connecticut.

And it splits its home games between the UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., which is also the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, and Bridgeport Arena in Connecticut, a facility also utilized by the Bridgeport Islanders, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL Islanders.

Roque would have preferred her team to be faring a bit better in the PWHL standings. The squad had won just two of its first 12 starts in regulation time. But it did also have four overtime victories and a pair of OT losses.

“We seem to get a point at least every game,” Roque said. “It’s never a win or a loss. We bring every team to a close one. I think we just need to score goals. That’s the bottom line.”

Roque, who signed a three-year deal with the New York franchise, is currently living in the Connecticut city of Stamford.

Roque, who has both Canadian and American citizenship, represents the U.S. in international competitions.

She helped the U.S. squad capture the gold medal at the 2023 world women’s tournament. And she was a member of silver-medal winning clubs at the 2021 and ’22 world championships.

Roque and her American teammates also returned home with a silver medal from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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