In the 2015 edition of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) draft, Laura Brooker was part of a unique draft class. Claimed in the second round, seventh overall, by the Toronto Furies, she was the first player with a background in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s ice hockey to be picked.
Of note, this year’s draft saw 15 players with CIS experience selected, including four-time Winter Games gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser, who recently played with the University of Calgary Dinos. Katia-Clement Heydra, one of McGill University’s top five leading scorers was also a winner of the 2014 Brodrick Trophy, akin to college football’s version of the Heisman Trophy. Coincidentally, both were also second-round picks.
Having played for the nationally prominent Laurier Golden Hawks women’s ice hockey program, Brooker, who was raised in Fergus, Ontario, graduated in 2015 as the only player in program history to have earned five Ontario University Athletics (OUA) All-Star team nods. As a side note, fellow OUA rival, Michelle Saunders, who competed for the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, was also drafted by the Furies, taken in the sixth round.
In addition, Laura MacIntosh, the all-time leading scorer in Ohio State women’s hockey, spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Golden Hawks. Having also spent two seasons with the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder, she would be an ideal mentor for Brooker, elevating her game to a new level.
The recipient of the team’s Rookie of the Year Award (and OUA Rookie of the Year) in 2011, Brooker would earn Team MVP honors in 2015, truly bringing her career full-circle. One of three female athletes nominated for Laurier’s President’s Award, she was also recognized as Laurier’s Athlete of the Week on seven different occasions.
During her last two seasons with the Golden Hawks, Brooker helped to maintain the Golden Hawks standing as one of the elite programs in OUA play. Contributing to the Golden Hawks appearance in the medal round at the 2014 CIS women’s nationals, she would earn a spot on the Tournament All-Star team. Tying for fifth in tournament scoring, she was also named the Golden Hawks Player of the Game in two tournament games.
Although her final season saw the Golden Hawks lose to the Western Mustangs in the OUA Final, Brooker experienced one of her finest glories. Emerging as the team’s leading scorer in a championship effort at Montreal’s Theresa Humes Tournament, she logged four points in the title game, as the Golden Hawks rallied from a 4-0 deficit to force a shootout.
Taking into account the remarkable amount of talent that is competing at the CIS level, the opportunity for these players to extend their careers into the CWHL represents a significant milestone. In seasons past, CIS players such as Liz Knox and Ann-Sophie Bettez made their mark in the CWHL. Knox, a Golden Hawks alum, become the first rookie goalie to start a Clarkson Cup title game, while Bettez, the leading scorer in McGill history, captured the Angela James Bowl in 2014, awarded to the CWHL’s scoring champion. Brooker is very excited to see the impact that CIS hockey is making in the CWHL.
“I am excited that the CWHL is an option for the CIS players to go forward and continue playing hockey after their years at University. Seeing that many CIS players are joining the league is awesome to see and it will be fun to play against them once again.”
Brooker definitely brings a strong hockey resume to the Furies. In addition to her remarkable achievements with the Golden Hawks, she has also competed for Canada twice. Donning the Maple Leaf at the 2013 and 2015 editions of the Winter Universiade, Brooker was among the finest that the CIS had to offer. Capturing Canada’s third straight gold at the 2013 edition of the Universiade (contested in Trentino, Italy), she also served as the team captain in a silver medal effort in 2015, in which Spain was the host country. As a side note, she was one of only four players from the 2013 team to compete with Canada in 2015.
As the CWHL represents the next great chapter in Brooker’s career, there is an element that offers personal happiness. A common trait among so many of the elite teenaged players from Ontario that move on to CIS and NCAA hockey involves competing in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), quite possibly the best junior women’s hockey program in all of Canada. The opportunity to grace the ice and reunite with so many players that Brooker grew up competing with may prove to be the most rewarding aspect of suiting up for the Furies,
“It will be nice to play with and against some girls I have not seen since PWHL. Before we all went our separate ways for school.”
Joined by Cornell Big Red star forward Emily Fulton, the Furies first round pick (second overall), the two shall be part of a Furies squad looking to expand its offensive attack. Having scored only 51 goals during the 2014-15 campaign, the Furies endured a fourth place finish.
Brooker shall be eager for the opportunity to bring the Furies back into prominence. Contributing 21 points in her final season with the Golden Hawks, it signified the fifth straight season that she logged at least 20 points. Leading the OUA in shorthanded goals, she graduated as the second leading scorer in Golden Hawks history. Having proven herself as a sniper with the Golden Hawks, she should be able to duplicate such success at the CWHL level. In discussing what she believes are the best aspects of her game, her team-first approach shines through, which should pay positive dividends for her new club,
“I am all about the team, team comes first. I push myself to my limit for the family that stands beside me. I can see the ice well with and without the puck, get into the dirty areas to battle for the puck. I like to think I am easy to coach and will do what is needed to be done.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”