Players have been invited to Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) training camps next month, ahead of an expected January 2024 puck drop
Bujold, Jackson among numerous players looking to leave mark in pre-season tryouts
Karissa Donkin · CBC Sports
Sarah Bujold thought her hockey career was going to take her to Montreal in 2019.
Then 23, Bujold was poised to play for Les Canadiennes in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) after five seasons with St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
But the league folded just as Bujold was about to begin her CWHL career, changing her plans and the landscape of professional women’s hockey.
After a journey that took her through Sweden and the New York area, the former U Sports player of the year will finally get the chance to make a professional hockey roster in Montreal.
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Bujold has been invited to training camp with Montreal of the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), one of a number of players to accept a tryout after not hearing their names called in the PWHL’s draft.
“My agent and I were speaking to different teams but Montreal just felt right,” said Bujold, who is from Riverview, N.B.
According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players, each team needs to have at least 28 players at training camp, creating opportunities for at least 60 players who weren’t drafted.
Training camps are expected to open in mid-November and for those competing for a job, the stakes are high. The PWHL is expected to begin play in January, at a time when professional women’s hockey leagues in Europe, a potential plan B, will be mid-season.
At some point, PWHL rosters will need to be trimmed down to 23 players, with provisions for reserve players, according to the collective bargaining agreement.
Bujold’s well-travelled path
Bujold became more than a point-per-game player in her final season in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL) before returning to North America last year.
She played for the Premier Hockey League’s Metropolitan Riveters, where she logged 20 points in 23 games after a blazing start to the season.
She re-signed with the Riveters in May, but less than two months later, that league was sold and shut down — the second time Bujold’s plans were impacted by a shuttered league.
“You didn’t really know how to feel because it was so unexpected,” Bujold said.
She no longer had a job, but Bujold knew she didn’t want to stop playing and developing.
“I kind of kept my head on straight and just bore down, kept working hard and just knowing that something’s going to work out,” she said.
Bujold declared for the PWHL draft, but wasn’t among the 90 players selected.
A few days later, when teams were able to speak to free agents, Bujold liked the vision she heard from Montreal general manager Danièle Sauvageau and head coach Kori Cheverie.
She also liked the idea of practising every day with one of the best players in the world in Marie-Philip Poulin, and shooting on Ann-Renée Desbiens, one of the best goalies.
“Just from what they were telling me, it’s somewhere I know I will be able to develop and improve as a player and a person,” Bujold said.
Jackson’s uncertainty becomes excitement
Like Bujold, Carly Jackson thought she had job security after signing a one-year, $60,000 US deal to return to the Isobel Cup-champion Toronto Six.
When the contract was voided, it threw Jackson’s life into limbo, waiting to find out what could be next.
“That was really hard at first,” Jackson said. “I took a bit of time just to almost mourn that and what was to be. But then after I took that time to really feel it through, I was able to get excited and just buy into what I love about hockey and the excitement of the PWHL.”
Jackson was one of 44 goalies who declared for the PWHL draft, but she wasn’t drafted.
Soon after, Jackson got a call from PWHL Toronto head coach Troy Ryan, who coached Jackson on Team Nova Scotia in the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Jackson had accepted a coaching job with the Mount Allison University women’s hockey team, and Ryan wanted to know whether Jackson planned to continue playing.
When Jackson said yes, that led to a call with PWHL Toronto general manager Gina Kingsbury, and an invitation to that team’s training camp next month.
While they wait for their opportunity to prove themselves at camp, both Bujold and Jackson are training full-time in the Maritimes, often finding ice with a local junior A team.
For Jackson, the past few months have been about focusing on what she loves about the game rather than the uncertainty.
“Thankfully this has all come to fruition and I’m able to go back to a city that I love and play with some teammates and some coaches that I’ve always really admired,” Jackson said.
“I just think this is really exciting and I’m really looking forward to what’s next.”