PWHL TORONTO’S OWN READY TO SHINE ON HOME ICE AT NHL ALL-STAR

By: PWHL Toronto Staff
January 25, 2024.

For the first time since 2000, Toronto will play host to the NHL All-Star Game. This year’s edition includes All-Star Thursday, featuring the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase.

The city is no stranger to elite women’s hockey All-Star Games, having previously hosted four Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) events and the Premier Hockey Federation’s (PHF) 2023 edition. Toronto is ready to be dazzled again as the best hockey stars from across North America come together for four days of festivities.

Four members of PWHL Toronto will suit up at Scotiabank Arena, just a few blocks south of their home rink of Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens).

Defender Renata Fast is set to take part in her third NHL All-Star Weekend— her first involvement was in 2019 as one of the first four women’s hockey players to ever participate in the event. She followed up her first appearance, in which she demonstrated the Accuracy Shooting Skills, by representing the Canadian All-Stars in the Elite Women’s 3-on-3, presented by adidas, in 2020. Forward Sarah Nurse makes her second consecutive appearance on NHL All-Star ice after going viral with her Discover NHL Tendy Tandem goal last year. Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull will also be suiting up at the event for a second time, having previously played alongside Fast as a Canadian All-Star in 2020. Defender Jocelyne Larocque will be making her NHL All-Star debut on February 3rd.

“I’m just looking forward to the whole event,” Larocque said of being named to the star-studded rosters. “The hockey crowd in Toronto never disappoints, so it’s always a fun time playing in front of them.”

For Larocque’s defence partner Fast, even after three appearances, she is just as excited for another opportunity. “It’s a very unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of NHL All-Star. It’s a weekend full of celebrations – take it all in and enjoy the moment while we represent the PWHL.” And what will a hometown Toronto crowd bring to the atmosphere? “The energy and the diversity.” Fast continued, “Toronto fans are passionate and it’s a hockey hotbed. It’s been a long time since the NHL has hosted the All-Star Game in their city and I’m excited to feel that energy from the fans.”

The quad from PWHL Toronto are no strangers to All-Star festivities. Larocque was selected for all four All-Star Games in CWHL history, with defensive partner, but then-GTA-rival, Fast participating in the latter two events. Turnbull and Nurse were both selected to the final CWHL All-Star festivities in 2019. As members of the PWHPA last season, all four stars were once again called upon. Nurse captained one of the four teams and Turnbull was one of her teammates. Larocque lined up on Team Knight, while Fast took home the win in the 3-on-3 tournament as part of Team Keller. Nurse also participated in the skills portion, taking on the Accuracy Shooting challenge, while Fast lived up to her surname, falling just short behind Coyne Schofield in the Fastest Skater competition.

“I think the crowd will be awesome,” remarked Turnbull. “Thinking back to the CWHL All-Star Game and seeing how much the game has grown since then and how well received the launch of the PWHL has been, I’m expecting the crowd to be really fun.”

She may be the lone Toronto representative on Team King’s roster, but there’s still a lot of familiarity. From Team Canada teammates to Team Scotiabank in the PWHPA, and even all the way back to university. “I am excited to play with Knight,” Turnbull shared. “She was my captain during my first year at the University of Wisconsin in 2011-2012, but since then we haven’t played on the same team so I’m looking forward to being her teammate.”

As one of the players who participated in the first women’s hockey 3-on-3 event at the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend, Turnbull is relishing her return. “The biggest takeaway to stay in the moment, have fun and embrace the fact that we get to showcase our sport to an audience that might not normally watch us,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show the PWHL to people who might only be NHL fans.”

As one of the defenders taking on Turnbull and her teammates, Fast shared who she is not looking forward to squaring up against: “The combo of Alina Müller and Marie-Phillip Poulin. These two players have some of the best vision of the ice in the women’s game,” she remarked. “Any time you give them time or space they can make plays. Also, Ann-Renée Desbiens – she’s like another skater out there with how well she can play the puck and start breakouts.”

As for Larocque? She agreed with her defence partner. “Marie-Philip Poulin. She’s the best player in the world, so it’s never fun playing against her.”

For Nurse, she returns to the NHL All-Star stage to shine on home ice after taking the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition by storm when she pulled out a ‘Forsberg’ goal against Igor Shesterkin. After the goal she told AP: “One of my friends, we were talking about this event, and they were like, `You should try this.’” She added that it didn’t even cross her mind that she was trying the move against the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. “I didn’t even think about it until afterwards,” she said with a laugh. “I was just like attack the day. Seize the moment.”

Nurse is the lone Toronto forward on Team Kloss, but up-front she is joined by familiar faces in Team Canada teammates and fellow Wisconsin Badgers.

“It is very cool for the NHL All-Star Game with the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase to be in Toronto, a huge hub for women’s hockey. There has been a ton of demand for our games at home at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, so I’m excited to give fans another opportunity to see us play,” Nurse remarked.

Toronto’s top defensive pair of Larocque and Fast will also suit-up for Team Kloss alongside Nurse, but the formidable blueline duo likely won’ts ee much of the ice together, as the showcase’s 3-on-3 format should keep them separated. But who are they both looking forward to playing with?

For Larocque, the player is an old teammate from the CWHL’s Markham Thunder— and fellow Team Canada mainstay, “I would say Laura Stacey. I find speed the hardest thing to defend and she’s the fastest forward so I’m happy we are teammates for the All-Star 3-on-3 Showcase.”

Fast went cross-border with her picks, “Alex Carpenter and Abby Roque are two players I’ve played against a lot but have never played with them,” she explained. “They’re both great playmakers and you always have to be aware of them from a defensive perspective. With all the time and space in 3-on-3, I’m looking forward to playing with them versus against them this time around.”

On the other side of the ice, Turnbull is not looking forward to going up against her alternate captains. “I’m not excited to play against Joce and Renata. They are both tough as nails and I’m very happy they’re on my team during the regular season.”

We had to ask her soon-to-be opponents if the chirping had begun with Turnbull being the sole PWHL Toronto player on the other side of the ice. “I honestly didn’t notice until now, so the chirps will begin,” laughed Larocque.

Only time will tell which team will have the last laugh at the Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase on NHL All-Star Thursday.