Parkhill, Ont. goalie projected to be first female chosen in OHL draft
Just west of the town of Parkhill, Ont., on a gravel road in the country, lives a goaltender who could make Ontario Hockey League (OHL) history.
"We're entering unchartered territory here," says London, Ont.-based goalie coach Jim Sidwell.
It's not because this 16-year-old is a future NHL prospect, but solely because Taya Currie could become the first female ever chosen in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
"It would really be awesome to get drafted, we'll see how it plays out," says Currie.
Currie has been playing with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs AAA boys' team since she was in minor-atom seven years ago.
"She's only the second female goaltender in U16 AAA hockey in Ontario in the 12 years I've been active," Chiefs Assistant Coach Ryan Yessie said on Twitter.
Despite the pandemic, she was able to showcase herself to scouts and OHL general managers during games in a small bubble against London and Huron Perth.
"It was the athletic ability, great hands and the way she challenges the puck that drew us to her game," says Dylan Seca, general manager of the Sarnia Sting.
"I'm tipping my hand more than I would normally for anyone in this draft but there's someone that we've interviewed and the background checks are are fantastic. It would not be surprising to that she's gone before we even wanted to pick her ourselves."
Dylan Seca, general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting, speaks on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
The five foot seven inch goalkeeper has been working on the ice with Sidwell for the past couple of seasons. He raves about her drive and work ethic.
"She has all the skill, talent and is very coachable," says Sidwell. "She holds her own and doesn't look out of place. You would be amazed if you watched her."
Even if she is selected Saturday, she has options. She can pursue a junior hockey career, or convert to the girls' game, in which case she'd join her older sister Tristan's AA team and start toward her goal of being a future Olympian.
"I can go play with the Bluewater (PWHL) junior team with the girls and get ready for university and possibly the NCAA," explains Currie.
She admires Shannon Szabados, who played junior in the Western Hockey League, and in some minor professional leagues and Manon Rheaume, who became the first woman ever to play an NHL exhibition game in the early 1990s. Both became Olympians.
"I love competing with the boys because of the competitive side of it," says Currie. "I'm athletic and I like like the style their game compared to the girls. They have harder shots and I just enjoy it all."
OHL scouts, coaches and managers say this is not a publicity stunt.
"I think the intriguing part of breaking barriers in this league is there, but honestly it's the quality of the player," says Seca, who along with his staff had already interviewed Currie before a recent media frenzy.
"I'm a father of two girls both who play girls' hockey and I've coached both of them. I've always thought the day is coming when one of the girls is good enough to play in our league. Whether it's this year or another year, I am excited that we're even having the conversation."
Wherever that next level is for Currie, she'll need to get bigger, stronger and quicker .
"I've told her if things materialize, I'll send her a text and tell her now the work begins," says Sidwell.
No matter whether she gets drafted, her fearlessness under the microscope in the boys' game says Taya Currie is a name to remember for the foreseeable future.