Wasylk bringing NWHL experience back to Suffolk

Suffolk University’s head women’s hockey coach, Taylor Wasylk, was slated to play in the National Women’s Hockey League’s (NWHL) semifinals on Feb. 4, but due to COVID-19, all games in the league have been canceled. 

The League announced on Feb. 3 the suspension of their historic 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs due to several players testing positive for COVID-19. This was a major blow to the anticipated increase in visibility for the relatively new league. 

The NWHL was established in 2015 and has made monumental progress in the world of women’s professional sports in its six seasons. Prior to the suspension, the 2021 Isobel Cup semifinals were planned to air on NBCSN. This would have been the first time the NWHL would get live airtime on a major network. 

Wasylk was to play for the Buffalo Beauts in the semifinals. She also played for the Boston Pride during the 2019-2020 season.

“Everyone was super excited to play on NBC Sports… it is what it is, they canceled it due to health reasons and I support that one hundred percent,” said Wasylk.

 The league had planned for the six teams to play five games each leading up to the playoffs. Two teams, The Toronto Six and the Connecticut Whale had already withdrawn prior to the suspension due to COVID-19 concerns. Suspending the rest of the playoffs was decided after positive cases were found within the league’s Lake Placid bubble, according to a tweet sent out by the NWHL.   

Wasylk’s history with the NWHL goes back to her time as a player at Boston College in 2014. Although she didn’t play in the league for a few years, she began coaching at SUNY Canton after completing her undergraduate degree and starting her master’s. It wasn’t until after her transition to Suffolk that she reconsidered joining the league. 

 “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for life in terms of a job, and I ended up getting into coaching,” said Wasylk.

Wasylk has been involved in the NWHL while also coaching the Rams. She was unsure of whether or not she had the time to commit to playing, and originally only agreed to play for the Boston Pride for a few games during the 2019-2020 season. The games she did participate in were prior to the 2019-2020 season cancelation as a result of the pandemic and COVID-19 safety concerns. 

“I’m doing my masters and my team takes up a lot of time and energy. It was just too much so I didn’t play last year,” said Wasylk.

After some time, Buffalo approached Wasylk and asked her to join the team. She again was hesitant to take on the commitment of playing in the professional league, taking into account her coaching responsibilities. But she decided to give it a shot.

“The people who run the Beauts sounded amazing, so I wanted to give it a try and Suffolk gave me permission to go,” she said.

Although Wasylk is an impressive player, her passion is coaching. Wasylk is proud of the progress the Rams have made over the past three years. 

The Rams transitioned into their first Division III season with a roster of 22 players primarily made up of freshmen, ending strong with an overall record of 15-9-2, and a 10-4-2 league ledger. They hit a slump in the team’s sophomore season with a 8-7-1 league ledger but will be back on the ice playing a game for the first time this season on Feb 26.

“Our kids grew up a lot. They showed up to play, they showed up ready to go every day even when it didn’t go our way,” said Wasylk.

The NWHL is a symbol of progress in the world of women’s hockey, as it is the first professional level women’s league that pays its players. Many like Wasylk are paving the way for future players, and the recent suspension is an unfortunate blow to this progress.

“It’s a very cool experience, not just for me but for my team and for recruits to see their coach playing at that level,” Wasylk said.

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