TORONTO — It's been a long road but the excitement of a new reality was hard not to express.
Canadian Olympians Sarah Nurse, Blayre Turnbull and Renata Fast agreed to terms on three-year contracts through the 2025-26 season with the newly-formed Professional Women’s Hockey League's Toronto franchise on Wednesday.
Salary figures were not disclosed, but the PWHL's annual salaries will range from US$35,000 to $80,000.
The three players were part of Canada's gold-medal run at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and its silver-medal performance at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"To think how long it's taken, to reach this time where we have a true professional league where we all get to play ad sign with such a big market, I can't even believe we're finally here," said Fast.
The PWHL has stated that six players on each of the six teams will be signed to three-year contracts of not less than $80,000.
Another aspect that excited the players was the creation of an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, which was lacking in past leagues.
"There have been times where we travelled with our hockey gear, our hockey sticks on our laps or in the aisles of buses," said Nurse.
"At our facilities, at our arenas, having proper locker rooms for the visiting team because there have been times where we've been changing in hallways or lobbies. It's the little things that add up."
The signings also marked the first time the three players participated in free agency, negotiating for themselves with their own needs in mind.
"To be a part of something like free agency where you completely have to separate the personal from the business, and you have to put yourself first, which is something we're generally not used to doing," said Turnbull.
Toronto general manager Gina Kingsbury previously worked with all three players with Hockey Canada as the general manager of the women's team since 2018 before taking up her current post.
“I couldn't pick three better players to start a franchise with,” said Kingsbury at a media availability. “I know this group can lead a team to a championship."
Kingsbury added that the team is close to naming its inaugural head coach for the upcoming season, saying they have extended a contract offer to one candidate.
The signings come one day after Ottawa's PWHL franchise signed fellow Canadian national team members Emily Clark, Brianne Jenner and Emerance Maschmeyer.
Los Angeles Dodgers majority owner Mark Walter, who is the league's financial backer, bought out the seven-team rival Premier Hockey Federation, with his group also negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association.
"It was such a unique experience and something that really hasn't been done very often in professional sports and so, I think that had a huge benefit to really get out our message and spreading women's hockey around North America to markets that don't normally get it," Nurse said about the differences between the PWHPA and the new league.
The league opens its inaugural season in January with teams in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and New York City.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2023.
The Canadian Press