Sports

16-year-old is first girl drafted in OHL history — but will NCAA eligibility force her to turn the honor down?

Taya Currie became the first girl drafted by an OHL team.

Taya Currie became the first girl drafted by an OHL team.
Screenshot: Twitter/OHL

Eventually, there’s an important question that needs to be answered, but for now, this is simply really cool.

In the 14th round of the Ontario Hockey League draft on Sunday, the Sarnia Sting — junior home of Steven Stamkos, Alex Galchenyuk, and dozens more future pros — selected goalie Taya Currie, making her the first girl ever picked in the league.

A 16-year-old from Parkhill, Ont., near Lake Huron and slightly closer to Detroit than Toronto, Currie began in youth hockey playing with a mix of boys and girls. But as the girls switched over to girls programs, Currie stayed with the boys. As she told The London Free Press, “Since I’m a goalie, the hitting didn’t really affect me.”

So, Currie stuck with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, the minor hockey team that produced Bo Horvat, Boone Jenner, and Travis Konecny. And like those guys, now she’s been drafted by the OHL.

Now, it’s a long, long, long way from the OHL draft to the NHL draft, let alone to the NHL itself, but Currie is in that pipeline now. Whatever experience she gets out of this will benefit her in pursuit of a pro career. And since times are different now than when Currie’s idol, Shannon Szabados, played for the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League, trying to go pro includes the chance to switch to playing only with women. The idol gave the teen a thrill with a congratulatory tweet:

Szabados, after her WHL experience, returned to juniors in Alberta, then played on the Canadian university circuit before spending three years with the now-defunct Columbus Cottonmouths in the Southern Professional Hockey League. It was only three years ago that the 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medalist joined professional women’s hockey, signing with the Buffalo Beauts.

When is the best time for Currie to make her move? She doesn’t know yet, and there isn’t a textbook answer.

“I don’t think it will do me any good playing another year with the boys if I want to go to university with the girls,” Currie told the Free Press. “I can get used to it and get looked at more if I switch. I have to decide that soon.”

So much of sports is the idea of testing your limits, taking on the greatest possible challenge. The NHL is probably out of the question just based on size — at 5’7”, Currie is four inches shorter than the smallest goalie in the league this year, Juuse Saros. But for now, the OHL would be the league with the best level of competition that Currie could face. The idea that doing so would hinder her chances to move forward in the women’s game is antithetical to what any of this should be about.

But that’s just what would happen. If Currie goes and plays for Sarnia, it would make her ineligible for the NCAA — the top level of competition available to college-age women — just as it did for Szabados.

The question that needs to be answered is how to make this right, and how to handle situations like it, because Currie might be the first girl drafted by the OHL, but she won’t be the last.

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