The Connecticut Whale will play its final home game of the season this Sunday at the ISCC in Simsbury. When they do, it will be the final home game in a Whale sweater for captain Shannon Turner-Doyle.
“I've been doing this, putting on the sweater for eight years, which is almost a decade of my life,” Turner-Doyle said. “It really has flown by.”
When that time comes, it will be ending to a story Turner-Doyle wasn’t even sure would ever get to start.
“The mantra was always like hockey's amazing ... but you also need to realize that this is there's no NHL and there wasn't,” Turner-Doyle said.
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As a female hockey player, Turner-Doyle grew up knowing there wasn’t a “next level” after college hockey. That is, unless you made a national team.
A Canada native and top-tier college player, that was well within her reach.
“While I was in college, the goal was either in the national team or bust,” Turner-Doyle said.
But, you could call it a plot twist, the National Women’s Hockey League was founded the same year she graduated. An amazing opportunity, Turner-Doyle said, but still hardly the NHL. These paychecks definitely wouldn’t pay the bills.
“It wasn't really a thought of, well, ‘this is a career’ or ‘this is something that I can do full time,'" Turner-Doyle said. “It was something that it was a side to my main career, which was teaching.”
Middle school English teacher by day, pro hockey player by night. Not to mention, she’s also a girls varsity hockey coach, too.
Turner-Doyle starts her days before 6 a.m. and ends them after 11 p.m. Busy days, she said, but ones that now aren’t sustainable.
Since the NWLH became the Premier Hockey Federation, the league has seen sustained growth. Next year, the salary cap will increase. That means more money for players but also more practices.
Turner-Doyle couldn’t keep doing both, but she’s glad now the next generation of players won’t have to.
“These girls coming to the league ... they don't need to do anything else,” Turner-Doyle said. “This is their job. They are professional athletes, and it's just so exciting.”
It’s a happy ending, with a sequel on the way. Not bad for a story Turner-Doyle wasn’t sure she’d get to start.
“I want to be a teacher and work with kids. ... And I wanted to be able to play hockey at the highest level that I could achieve. Not many people can say that they reach their dreams and get to actually live them out. I got to do it simultaneously for eight years,” Turner-Doyle said. “It’s going to be tough being in the stands sometimes, but I’m really excited for the change.”