In September of 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Manon Rhéaume. Little were they aware of the precedent it would set for girls and women in the sport.
Fast forward 29 years later, women athletes in the sport are finally getting their dues. While the state of professional women’s hockey has been at a crossroads since 2019, visibility and resources have increased, only setting the stage for the next generation.
That’s where Taya Currie ties in, a 16-year-old backstop from Parkhill, Ontario. Growing up with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, Currie skated with boys in the Alliance Hockey League.
As time went on during a seven-year period, scouts and teammates alike started noticing her potential.
“She deserves it out of anyone,” said Noah VandenBrink, a forward and Currie’s longtime teammate. “She works for it and she’s one of the better goalies in the (Alliance) league. It’s crazy to me to think she has made it this far and been so dominant.”
This sentiment was shared by Darrell Woodley, Director of Central Scouting for the Ontario Hockey League. “Taya Currie is a very athletic goaltender, you know, not the biggest goalie in the world at 5’7, 140 pounds, but I’ll tell you she makes up for it in her athleticism and her quickness. She does a great job at taking away the bottom of the net with her butterfly style, you know, in saying that she’s athletic, she’s known to be a good rugby player, soccer player, and the one that I found very interesting, was a barrel racer,” Woodley said. “I had to look that up and see what that is, but those things just prove how athletic she is, you know, she challenges well, she moves well in her net, and you know, she’s been playing with the boys in AAA since Minor Atom now, so she’s been there for seven years, so she’s well accustomed to the speed of the game and she has no trouble keeping up, and you know, fitting in. She’s one of the best goalies that I’ve seen this year in the Alliance, which is something to say about her game and her play.”
For as long as the goalie has been playing, she has styled her game after Shannon Szabados. A member of Canada’s National Team, Currie grew up idolizing the two-time gold medalist. When Sarnia selected Taya on Saturday, she broke a similar feat alike both Szabados and Rhéume.
Before Szabados joined the Canadian National Women’s Team, the two-time Olympic gold medalist broke another barrier in the Canadian Hockey League. After starting in the AJHL, Szabados became the first ever female to play a regular season game in the Western Hockey League. As for Rhéume, in 1991-92, she broke a barrier of her own with the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs. Starting in a single game, the Olympic silver medalist became the first ever female to play a regular season game in the QMJHL.
Upon learning that the Sting had chosen Taya, Shannon put out a tweet and later texted with the backstop. “Congrats Taya! Watched this live. Cant wait to watch you on the World stage one day🙌,” the Edmonton native of the momentous milestone.
Elated to to be hearing from her hero, Currie said of the genuine exchange, “Shannon Szabados actually texted me, that was great, it meant so much to me.”
Making this historic selection, Sting GM Dylan Seca later told the Toronto Star, “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help her game and then see where it goes. She’ll get a chance to play just like any other draft pick. She had the opportunity like everyone else and earned it.”
Being the biggest news of the day, she was even sought out to speak on Hockey Night In Canada. Chatting with Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean, she was over the moon to learn of where her next chapter starts. Only 45 minutes out from her hometown, the situation fit perfectly, one that she was grateful and ecstatic for. “Oh it was indescribable, just a great feeling when my family just jumps on me and the phones start ringing off, it’s awesome,” she said on the broadcast.
Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, she remained optimistic about her path to the OHL. “It just means so much,” said the multi-sport athlete. “For the Sting to take a chance on me as a female, it’s an awesome feeling.”
For Currie, this was one step closer to achieving her dream and making it a reality. However, acknowledging her rise through minor hockey, she knows she couldn’t have done it without her biggest supporters. “So, I’ll start with Don Dixon in minor atom and major atom, and then I had Jason Clark for three years, and now I have Jeff Roy, which he’s been great, he’s led me to so many opportunities.”
What each of them has in common? they all encouraged Taya to keep working at her art. Being the art of goaltending, the lessons learned along the way have only helped make her stronger. “Every coach told me to keep going, to keep pushing, and to believe in myself,” she said. “Having self-confidence allows me to play great.”
In the three scrimmages Darrell Woodley saw her at, that’s exactly what she was, which put the backstop on his radar. With each coach helping Currie improve, whether it be edge work or better covering the angles, the youngster knows it’s just part two of her journey.
Being one step closer to her target, she’s a proven example of hard work paying off. Giving young girls someone to look up to worldwide, she hopes to be an example for the next generation.
“Anyone can do it if you push yourself to that level,” said the 14th-round draft pick. “You’ve just got to keep following your dreams, following your path, because no one is going to tell you what you need to do next in your career.”