Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Six Gophers drafted in new women’s hockey league, Heise selected first overall

Former Gophers Taylor Heise, Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles were among the six recent Gophers who made history as selections in the inaugural PWHL Draft.
Image by University of Minnesota Athletics
Gopher women’s hockey player Taylor Heise.

“It’s not about a single moment, it’s about a movement,” legendary tennis player Billie Jean King said at the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) draft.

Six Gophers alumni look to contribute to that movement after being drafted to the PWHL on Monday.

Headlining the group is Taylor Heise, the first overall pick of the draft made by Minnesota’s PWHL franchise. The other notable Gophers drafted were Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles, who were selected at 46th and 86th overall respectively. Brown was selected by Boston’s PWHL franchise and Knowles was selected by Toronto’s PWHL franchise.

“It is nice that women’s hockey is a feasible option to continue,” Knowles said.

Before the existence of the PWHL, players coming out of college had two options for playing professional hockey: the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF).

However, those avenues were never a guarantee, according to Knowles. The PHF did not have binding language in their pre-draft documents, whereas the PWHL does.

Thus, in the PHF, players were able to leave their teams and play elsewhere.

Heise said the PHF and PWHPA provided the pathway for the new league to exist. With only one league now, there’s no more inequality of support split between the two leagues.

“I’m just glad that we’re all going to be able to find the successes of women’s hockey together instead of separately,” Heise said. “Separate [leagues] means that the NHL [National Hockey League] would have to pick a side to be on and that’s a hard sell.”

Additionally, with the new PWHL, there is only one avenue for players, consolidating the top talents into one pool.

“There are great, great hockey players that went undrafted because there’s only six teams right now,” Knowles said.

Six teams may be a limitation now, but Heise said she sees an expansion in the near future. Plans for the PWHL were unveiled in late August, just a few months after the PHF folded. Heise, Knowles and Brown said they were surprised when the PHF shutdown occurred.

Some players used their PHF contracts to buy cars or townhouses. When the league folded, it caused some players to have financial difficulties, according to Knowles. As a response, the PWHL will provide opportunities for players such as health benefits and stipends for housing.

Brown is optimistic about the future of the PWHL and sees it becoming the pinnacle of women’s hockey. To contribute to the movement, the former Gophers drafted all look to provide support for young girls who play hockey.

“Growing up, I didn’t really know what was ahead for me,” Knowles said. “I hope that we’re able to create a clear vision and clear goals for young girls.”

The three see the PWHL as providing opportunities for young players and others coming out of college. They gave credit to the Gophers and their positive support system for the opportunity to play in the new league. Knowles said she chose to play for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the PHF because of how welcomed she felt when playing with the Gophers.

“Not only when we won, even when we lost, we still got the attention that we deserve,” Heise said. “Those who either don’t necessarily give us the benefit of the doubt or the credit are usually the people who don’t quite understand why we do what we do.”

Knowles said she is excited to play for the women’s hockey community in Toronto since it is comparable to that of Minnesota. A native of Campbell River, British Columbia, Knowles had to play in the boy’s hockey division growing up due to the lack of competitive opportunities in the girl’s division.

“No one in my family played hockey, so I didn’t have older siblings’ games to go to,” Brown said. “I wanted to watch the best girls in the world and that was at the University of Minnesota.”

Fans can catch Heise, Brown and Knowles playing for their respective teams starting January 2024 when the PWHL season kicks off.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (0)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *