Sophie_Jaques PWHL_up-close

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Sophie Jaques, the 2023 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as the NCAA’s top Division I women’s hockey player who’s a rookie defenseman for PWHL Boston and a first-time member on Canada’s women’s national team in the Rivalry Series against the United States.

Sophie Jaques is relishing being a double rookie.

The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as NCAA Division I’s top hockey player in 2023 is a first-year pro after she was selected in the second round (No. 10) by Boston of the new Professional Women’s Hockey League. 

And the 23-year-old defenseman made her international debut on Nov. 11 representing Canada for the first time on its women’s national team in the Rivalry Series against the United States.

“It’s been great just competing in the PWHL in practice with the best players every day,” Jaques said. “And anytime you get to wear the maple leaf and represent Canada, especially getting to play those two games in Canada in front of sold-out crowds (in Kitchener and Sarnia, Ontario) was incredible. And to see the buzz continuing to grow around women’s hockey is great.”


It has been a time of change and adjustment for Jaques, who became the first Black player to receive the Kazmaier Award when it was presented March 18. 

She completed her graduate thesis and earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Ohio State University in August, attended a Hockey Canada camp in September and moved from hometown Toronto to Boston shortly after the PWHL draft on Sept. 18.

She also traveled to Phoenix to be honored as one of 30 student-athlete nominees for the 2023 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, was presented during the U.S. collegiate sports governing body’s annual conference Thursday.

“I never really spent too much time in the heart of Boston before, so it’s been incredible just to see this city and how truly much of a sports city it is,” she said. “I’ve been to a few [Boston] Bruins games and it’s crazy. Next thing on my list is I want to see a [Boston] Celtics game.”

It’s all part of an experience Jaques thought that she’d never have -- to be a pro in a best-on-best North American women’s league. The PWHL, funded by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter and his wife, Kimbra, pays players between $35,000 and $80,000, not including bonuses. Each team has a 24-game schedule.

“If you told me when I was younger, or even when I was just starting in college I was, like, ‘OK, these are my last four years, I’m going to enjoy hockey,’” said Jaques, who had 156 points (61 goals, 95 assists) in 172 games for Ohio State from 2018-23. “Professional hockey wasn’t a thing for women. It’s incredible where it is today, and I know this league is going to grow and take off.”


Jaques said she hopes her career takes off once she gets acclimated to playing in a league with and against the world’s best women’s players in the PWHL and playing for Canada against the U.S., who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by the IIHF.

She is scoreless in three games for Canada (the U.S. holds a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, which continues at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Feb. 7, and has yet to register a point in two PWHL games. 

“It is a big adjustment from the NCAA to whether it be to the national team or this league,” said PWHL Boston coach Courtney Kessel, who is also coaching the defense for Canada in the Rivalry Series. “Every time you’re on the ice it’s against top talent. The NCAA, sure, you have some great competitors and great teams, but I don’t think the depth is across the league as it is here in the PWHL. And obviously, when you get the national team, the game is faster and more physical than ever.

“I think she (Jaques) has done a great job adjusting to the pace of the game, and you’ve really seen her game develop in the sense of trying to push the pace now that she’s settling in. I’m really looking forward to seeing her in more games and seeing what she can bring from an offensive standpoint to our back end.”

Jaques is one of four Black players in the PWHL, along with Team Canada teammate and Toronto forward Sarah Nurse, Ottawa forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Minnesota defenseman Nikki Nightengale.

She said one of the pluses of being paid enough to play hockey and not to have a side job to make ends meet is she has time to help grow the sport by serving on the board of the Black Girl Hockey Club.


The non-profit group’s mission is to inspire and sustain passion for hockey within the Black community, specifically among Black women, and to provide access to the sport through education and scholarships.

“I think it's great with all the media coverage this league has been able to get that we're there to represent girls,” Jaques said. “From a young age, to have someone to look up to and to show that this sport is inclusive, and everyone can be a part of it, I think, is huge.

“I’m kind of in the middle of things with Black Girl Hockey Club, trying to organize more events,” Jaques said. “Maybe get something started here in Boston, which I think would be really cool.”


Related Content