From dreaming about the creation of a professional hockey league for women to actually playing in one has Kelowna’s Abby Cook feeling over the moon.
The defenceman for the Professional Women’s Hockey League's Minnesota team was on a full-ride scholarship to Boston University when she was contacted by Minnesota to take part in a tryout.
After a showcase in Utica, the 25 year old made the team and solidified herself as a paid professional — something she never thought possible.
“It’s such a surreal feeling to know that little girls can now look up to us and they know they can strive to play in this league one day," Cook said.
"When I look back at playing boys hockey when I was a kid and they would all talk about playing in the NHL one day and I just kind of stood there without having a league I could play in. When I think about that, it’s really exciting."
Cook was thrilled to join Minnesota, which many consider to be the hockey mecca of the United States. She tells Castanet the support from fans has been like nothing she’s ever seen before.
She says Minnesota has been bringing in an average of 5,000+ fans per game, with 13,000 in attendance for the home opener back in January.
"It was so crazy just stepping out onto the ice. I can’t even describe the feeling, it was definitely a top three moment in my life," she said.
Cook’s style of play has been enough for her to lace up the skates for all nine of Minnesota’s games so far this year, and she’s collected six penalty minutes along the way while also managing to register her first PWHL point — a goal she’s very proud of.
“I heard it hit the post but my teammates all started skating towards me and I just couldn’t believe it. After the game my phone was lit up with texts congratulating me and that really put it all into perspective. It’s crazy! There are no words to describe it and I would love to (score) again.”
Growing up in Kelowna, Cook played four years through Pursuit of Excellence Hockey, eventually becoming a coach for RINK Hockey Academy, where she spent a lot of time getting competitive girls ready for college hockey.
When she got the call from Minnesota, her team in Kelowna was ecstatic for her, and it really opened her eyes to how real the situation had suddenly become. Cook had an opportunity to live a dream of many young women and she was determined to make it happen.
“When word was released that I was going to camp, those girls were so excited for me. These girls were already looking up to me but this just put it in a whole different way. It makes me excited to know they have college to look forward to, but they can leave college and try their best to get into the (PWHL), which is not something we’ve had.”
While Cook navigates her way through the inaugural PWHL season, she wants girls playing hockey and growing up in the Okanagan to know there’s a place for them to call home if they really chase their dreams.
“Don’t give up, use every day as a new opportunity and have fun.”