Fresh off a hat trick performance during the PWHPA's Dream Gap tour
Brittany Howard is making a life playing and coaching the game
Thursday, June 10, 2021
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - Brittany Howard is making strides building a career in hockey.
Whether it is skating with the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) in the Canadian leg of their Secret Dream Gap tour, or teaching the skills of the sport, Howard is helping to create a better future for the women's game.
The 25-year old from St. Thomas is working towards having hockey a part of her daily life.
From May 24-30 in Calgary, Howard skated for Team Sonnet (Toronto) at the Dream Gap tournament, a seven game showcase of the women's game to champion equal opportunity for the world's best female hockey players.
The final was held at the Calgary Saddledome, home of the NHL's Calgary Flames, with Team Bauer (Montreal) edging Howard's Sonnet team, 4-2, on May 30. All games were streamed on Sportsnet with the final televised on the main network.
"It was a great opportunity to showcase and I was happy to be part of our team.
It was definitely good to be back on the ice," said Howard, who returned home
June 4th following a stop over at a teammate's cottage.
"Both rinks and facilities were awesome. That is where you finally feel you are
a professional athlete, playing at those types of venues. The treatment, full
circle feeling, make it to this stage, perform and be on Sportsnet."
"Both rinks and facilities were awesome. That is where you finally feel you are a professional athlete, playing at those types of venues. The treatment, full circle feeling, make it to this stage, perform and be on Sportsnet."
Howard scored a hat trick in Toronto's 8-3 win over the host Calgary (Team Scotiabank).
"Overall super happy to score and get some opportunities on the offensive side, but being at the Saddledome was a great experience. I'd never played there. Production wise that would be my top game for sure. Just getting your legs under you as the tournament went on. It was a lot of hockey in that seven day span, but the legs felt good by the end," said Howard, adding her teammates had just one practice back in September before ice became unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite no fans allowed in the building, the event was a positive experience for the women and the event did reach youth across the nation.
"It was extremely successful. I think everyone was super excited to be at an event like that. Moving forward we want to improve on our resources, standards, exposure and awareness of the women's game. This week having it on Sportsnet and having the availability to watch was huge," said Howard. "You noticed the support. Girls were reaching out from my home community. It's growing with the exposure and awareness of the women's game and we felt those effects during the tournament all week."
Her play during the tournament may attract Olympic team consideration from Hockey Canada. Howard wasn't among the 28-players named to Canada's National women's team Olympic centralization roster released in early May.
"You want to showcase your talents on the ice and it was a great stage to do so. It's a journey and you don't know where in hockey, the coaching side, or playing side, you may end up," Howard said. "Just having the opportunity to have your name put on the score sheet or brought up on Sportsnet, whatever it may be, it's been great exposure as an athlete and supporting the women's game on a professional stage."
Howard wore the Team Canada jersey for the London stop during the 2019 Rivalry Series with Team USA.
"I had lots of family and friends go to that game and also the one in Toronto. It was a great experience pulling on that jersey. First time doing that. It's a highlight of my career. As a young girl it's something you hope to achieve. You obviously cherish those chances."
Howard will finish the school year at her first teaching gig at the Toronto based Everest Academy, a new co-ed private school for student-athletes from Grades three to 12.
"I like it a lot. There is a component of hockey. It's kind of the best of both worlds and including the coaching part is nice," said Howard, who graduated from teacher's college at York University last year.
When students are actually at Everest Academy, it's on the ice in the morning and in the classroom in the afternoon.
"It's been a wild change with everything online, but you do what you can in these times," Howard added.
Recent years have been a wild ride for Howard since graduating from St. Thomas Parkside Collegiate, in 2013 and playing for the London Devilettes' junior team (181 points in 138 career games) in the Provincial Women's Hockey League.
Howard then went on to become the all-time leading scorer for the women's program at Robert Morris University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, amassing 79 goals and 102 assists in 138 games. For the 2016-17 season, Howard was named College Hockey America (CHA) player of the year, on the strength of 20 goals and 30 assists.
Following her final year with the Colonials, Howard was the top available prospect for the National Women's Hockey League. She became the first player from the CHA to be drafted when the Buffalo Beauts selected the forward 10th overall. Howard never played for Buffalo, instead skated for the Toronto Furies of the now folded Canadian Women's Hockey League, for the 2018-19 season.
During the Gap tour, Howard heard the news that Robert Morris was eliminating their men's and women's hockey programs.
"We are shocked with the events that occurred and the more we hear about the information on how it went down, we are disappointed in the university," said Howard. "Both men and women alumni were extremely disappointed on how the message was sent and delivered. As an alumni we want that (program) to be reinstated. It's our home. It's our home away from home," said Howard. "I'm friends with girls still on the team and to have that pulled away from them. I'm hoping if the team isn't reinstated by the fall they are able to find a new home to finish their education and playing career."
The next stride in Howard's career includes break from teaching academics at school to focus more on teaching skills for hockey and her playing career. She will split time between Victus Academy with Mike Ellis and Verbero Academy, where Howard is the lead female instructor for south-western Ontario.
"I'm going to work in hockey development in this area. I've have some cool opportunities in the fall, see where the hockey coaching side is, as well as still playing professionally," Howard explained. "Hopefully with rinks opening we'll be getting some development in the area. Girls have missed a lot of time on the ice, so we're be working on skills."
It's no surprise that Howard's passions are teaching and coaching, something shared by both of her parents, Anne and Scott (who have been teacher-coaches at Parkside) and her two siblings.
"It's really a family affair on the teaching side," said Brittany, who holds the edge as best hockey player in the family.
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