It’s first year all over again for a young Canadian committing to new roommates and unfamiliar coffee blends in America’s biggest city.

Sydney Kidd, the Sundridge, Ont., native, established a love for Tim Hortons upon moving away from her hometown, which was too small for an Iced Capp.

“I hear things in Manhattan are quite different," she says. "I grew up in a town of 1,000 people…. But we [will] live outside of Brooklyn so hopefully we will avoid the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.”

Over 8.4 million people populate New York City, which is home to the Riveters – a much different hockey team than the Western Mustangs.

The biology and global development major put her post-graduate studies at Ivey Business School on hold to play in the first American professional women's ice hockey league: the National Women’s Hockey League. The NWHL was established in 2015 as an alternative to the men’s National Hockey League.

For Kidd, this means she can finally chase her dreams.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to play in the NHL. That was the peak of hockey for me,” she says. “Then you get older and you realize that maybe that goal is not realistic.”

Though the big city is intimidating, the 22-year-old is looking forward to adapting to all the new changes that will come with joining a diverse team.

“We have girls from Austria, Russia and Japan, so they’re actually putting us up in two athlete houses," Kidd explains.

The New York Riveters have the highest number of international players amongst the four NWHL teams, but she thinks the international divide won't matter.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, we all speak the same language: we all talk hockey," she says. "You can take people from Russia, you can take people from Japan but at the end of the day we are going to be living together working for the same goal.”

That goal would be winning the Isobel Cup, named after the daughter of the donator of the Stanley cup, Fredrick Stanley.

Although Kidd is looking forward to her new goal, she doesn’t question why some of her previous Western teammates decided to stay on familiar rinks. At the time of Kidd’s signing, two other Mustang teammates were asked to join the league as well. However, Kendra Broad and Kelly Campbell declined.

“They were in a pretty awesome situation where they were offered these contracts early on when they had the opportunity to play for Western for a year," Kidd explained.

Kidd had run out her Canadian Interuniversity Sport eligibility, so she wasn't able to return to London.

An alternative could have been playing for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which started off to aid many university players who run out their eligibility and need a place to play competitively.

“I have put all these hours into this one sport and I have all this talent built up into this one thing," Kidd said. "Do I just succumb to being in league hockey or do I try and pursue that somewhere else?"

"I thought about playing in the CWHL,” she adds, but points out CWHL players have to pay to play, whereas the NWHL will pay her to play. “[The CHWL] shows how much women love playing hockey because they’re not doing it for the glory but for the love of the game."

An added bonus in Kidd’s NWHL contract is the promise for a 15 per cent chunk of every $120-jersey sold.

“The hardest part about women’s sport is getting that fan base," she said. "I think NYC is the place to be because there are so many people so we will probably have that audience."

Here in Canada, Kidd remembers hundreds cheered as she made waves across Canadian University Sport by helping her Mustangs to their first-ever championship win last season.

“The first game was probably the scariest because you’re playing and if you don’t win that game, you have no shot," she says, "[whereas] if you lose the second game you can still play [for bronze].”

Kidd is glad she took the year off to focus on all aspects of hockey, something she wasn't able to do when playing at Western.

“It’s hard. You’re trying to put school on the side and focus on hockey for an entire week," she says. "Once we got past that first game, we were like you know what, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, let’s just focus on hockey and school will come later."

All thanks to Mustangs coach Dave Barrett.

“I speak his name and I get shivers," she says. "He is sort of that coach that you see in movies that inspires the team in ways that you can’t really put words to.”

To this very day, Kidd gets emotional thinking about her last skate on the ice as a Mustang.

“It was the best and worst feeling of my life because I had just won a national championship [and] obviously hit the peak of any athlete’s goal in a university sport," she recalls. "But at the same time, I had my jersey on still and I was like 'this is the last time I am going to wear a Western Mustang jersey.' "

Whether it's at the Western rink in London, Ont. or the Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn, NY., there will always be slap shots, checking and scoring for the girl from Muskoka.


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