After playing playing professionally for three years in Jönköping, Sweden, Edmonton's Jess Healey was among the 90 players selected on Monday to play in the new Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).
The 26-year-old will join the Boston franchise for the league's inaugural season.
"I was actually pretty surprised to see my name up there," said Healey. "There's so many good players out there. It feels really good."
The new league features six teams, three of which are based in Canada out of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Teams will play a 24-game season starting in January 2024.
Draft picks will attend training camps in November, but for now, Healey said she's enjoying the moment.
"It's still sinking in," she said. "It feels like a huge honour to even be selected in general."
Unlike some previous women's professional hockey leagues, PWHL players established a collective-bargaining agreement, which guarantees them a minimum salary of $35,000 US.
The agreement also guarantees a mandatory average annual salary of $55,000 US across each team and salary-protected pregnancy leave.
Calgary's Carla MacLeod was named one of the six PWHL head coaches for the league's inaugural season. (@thepwhlofficial/Twitter)
University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey head coach Carla MacLeod has been hired as head coach of the Ottawa franchise.
She spent two years with the University of Calgary program, coaching her team to a 22-26 overall record.
MacLeod's PWHL team signed another Alberta player, Brudderheim's Emerance Maschmeyer, as a free agent prior to the draft. Maschmeyer is a goalie who won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. She holds a three-year contract.
Ottawa and the league's other teams will try to capitalize on spiking interest in the women's game.
Last year, 2.7 million people in Canada watched the Olympic gold medal game in Beijing between the Canadian and U.S. women's hockey teams. The Athletic reported that the game averaged 3.54 million viewers in the U.S., more than any NHL game televised in the country during the 2021-22 season.
"There's clearly demand for it," said the president of Girls Hockey Calgary, Amber Carney. "There's already buzz talking about it at the rinks. The coaches are talking about it; the girls are talking about it."
Carney said many girls playing hockey in Calgary strive to play at the University or Olympic level and will now aspire to play professionally in Canada, like their favourite players.
"I think it just goes to show that, you know, no dream is too big," she said. "[I'm] really excited to see how much that motivates some of the younger players in female hockey."
Girls Hockey Calgary president Amber Carney said the new Women's Professional Hockey League is empowering to young girls playing minor hockey in the city. (Dave Holland/Girls Hockey Calgary)
Jess Healey was the only player from Alberta selected in the draft, according to the PWHL.
Carney, however, says it's only a matter of time until a Calgary player makes their debut in the league.
"You see all these girls that are passionate about hockey. They eat and sleep and breathe hockey," said Carney. "The reality is… that's going to be one of our players at some point."