Trio of Olympic gold medalists calling Toronto home for next three years
TORONTO, ON (September 6, 2023) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) today announced the first three players to sign free agent contracts with the league’s Toronto franchise are defender Renata Fast, and forwards Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull. The trio of Canadian Olympians have all agreed to terms on three-year deals for the 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26 PWHL seasons. Salary terms will not be disclosed, as per the PWHL Players’ Association.
“We are beyond excited and proud of the three foundation players we have signed,” said Gina Kingsbury, General Manager of PWHL Toronto. “For us, it was all about them as a group, building a puzzle that we knew would work well together and give us the best foundation to our team’s success. When I think of the qualities of this group, I think of character, leadership, and talent. A combination we believe we can build upon in the draft and for years to come.”
Fast joins PWHL Toronto as a proven star to anchor its defensive core. Born and raised in nearby Burlington, ON, the 28-year-old has earned a wide variety of success throughout her career at all levels. Fast debuted with Team Canada as part of the 2014 U22 team and developed into a two-time Olympic medalist (1 Gold, 1 Silver) and five-time IIHF Women’s World Championship medalist (2 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze). She played her NCAA hockey at Clarkson University and helped the Golden Knights win a National Championship in her sophomore year. Upon graduating in 2016, Fast was selected second overall by the CWHL’s Toronto Furies where she turned pro and earned a Rookie of the Year nomination. She played in the PWHPA from 2019-21 and, after centralizing with Team Canada for the 2022 Olympics, returned in 2022-23.
“It’s a true honour and a privilege to be a part of the PWHL’s foundation,” said Fast. “This historic moment is a testament to the dedication of those who paved the way before us. Growing up in Burlington, ON, I always dreamt of playing hockey professionally. Now, being part of the PWHL right here in the heart of Toronto, feels like a dream come true. I am looking forward to helping set a standard of excellence both on the ice and within our community to grow the game of hockey for everyone and continue Toronto’s legacy as one of the world’s preeminent hockey cities. I want to thank Mr. & Mrs. Walter, Billie Jean King & llana Kloss for believing in us and providing an opportunity to take our game to the next level.”
“We are thrilled with the signing of Renata Fast,” said Kingsbury. “Renata brings the whole package to our organization. She is arguably the best defenceman in the world, she is an incredibly dynamic athlete, and is one of the best teammates you can ask for. Renata is an incredible leader, she is selfless, highly competitive, and always has a team-first mentality. She will be a cornerstone of our team and organization for years to come. We are looking forward to Renata’s impact on our franchise and the Toronto community as a whole.”
Nurse is one of the most familiar faces in women’s hockey with a prolific list of accomplishments that includes breaking the single-tournament scoring record with an 18-point performance at the 2022 Olympics and gracing the cover of EA Sports NHL 23. The 28-year-old from Hamilton, ON, signs with her nearly-hometown team as a two-time Olympic medalist (1 Gold, 1 Silver) and a four-time IIHF World Championship medalist (2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze). She also won U18 gold before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin where she played four NCAA seasons as a Badger. Nurse went on to be selected second overall in the 2018 CWHL Draft by the Toronto Furies, and later played in the PWHPA from 2019-21 and 2022-23 and was officially named a Board member in 2020.
“I am incredibly excited to begin this new chapter as one of the first-ever players signed to the PWHL and to bring professional women’s hockey to Toronto,” said Nurse. “Growing up so close to the city and getting to watch so many professional teams thrive in the market, I have always seen Toronto as the mecca of hockey and pictured myself representing the city on a larger stage. It is surreal to finally have that dream come to life. I know that Gina’s vision and experience, combined with the incredible skill Renata Fast and Blayre Turnbull bring to the table, we are already off to a great start. I look forward to building a culture of excellence as we show what the top talent in women’s hockey looks like. There is truly no place I would rather be!”
“We are excited to bring Sarah Nurse to Toronto as a foundation player,” said Kingsbury. “Sarah is a tremendous athlete who has proven herself to be one of the best athletes in the world. Her 2022 Olympic performance has demonstrated the impact she can have on a team. Sarah’s on-ice potential reach is unmatched, she brings offence to our lineup, and off the ice she is a wonderful person. She will have a great impact on the Toronto market.”
Turnbull makes her way to Toronto hailing from Stellarton, NS, with a renowned two-way game that will make an immediate impact. The 30-year-old first represented Team Canada in 2010 and has become a two-time Olympic medalist (1 Gold, 1 Silver), and six-time World Championship medalist (2 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze) to go along with other international medals. She played her NCAA hockey for the Wisconsin Badgers where she served as captain her senior season. In 2015, Turnbull was drafted by the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno and won the Clarkson Cup twice in four seasons. Following her time in the CWHL, Turnbull played in the PWHPA from 2019-21 and during the 2022-23 campaign where she finished top-six in overall scoring.
“I am extremely honoured to have been selected as one of the first players to sign a professional contract in the PWHL,” said Turnbull. “To have the opportunity to be a part of a franchise in such a great sports city like Toronto is super exciting and I can’t wait to get started!”
“Blayre is one of the best two-way forwards in the women’s game,” said Kingsbury. “She brings offence while making it very difficult to play against her. Blayre is one of the fiercest competitors in the game and is a key piece to the puzzle we are trying to build in Toronto. When I think of Blayre I think of character, leadership, and grit. Three ingredients our team in Toronto will be built around. We have no doubt Blayre will have a tremendous impact on our team’s identity.”
The PWHL player selection process officially opened on September 1 with an initial free agency period that continues through Sept. 10. Teams are permitted to sign three players to Standard Player Agreements during this time. The 2023 PWHL Draft is scheduled for Sept. 18 where Toronto holds the second overall pick.
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PWHL Director of Communications