Tabin earns PHF all-star nod

Winnipeg blue-liner touts hometown for franchise in women’s league


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Move over, Josh Morrissey. You too, Connor Hellebuyck. There’s another professional hockey player from around these parts who’s officially an all-star.

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Move over, Josh Morrissey. You too, Connor Hellebuyck. There’s another professional hockey player from around these parts who’s officially an all-star.

Winnipeg product Kati Tabin will lace up her skates this Sunday at the Premier Hockey Federation’s showcase event in Toronto. The 25-year-old blue-liner is having a terrific season playing for the Toronto Six, with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 games, which has her tied with Minnesota’s Sidney Morin for top-scoring rear-guard.

She’s also provided rock-solid work in her own end of the ice for the 10-2-2 club which sits in second place in the seven-team league.

“Honestly, when I joined this year, I kind of just had the mindset that I’m going to be 100 per cent in and give it my all and mostly just have fun, you know, enjoy it,” Tabin told the Free Press by phone Wednesday.

“I’m just super thankful to be here. Season’s been great so far. I just gotta keep going.”

Tabin previously starred at Balmoral Hall School, with 13 goals and 53 assists over 88 games between 2012 and 2015. She then took her talents south to Quinnipiac University (Connecticut), appearing in 141 games over four seasons with the Bobcats (14 goals, 38 assists).

After graduating in 2020 with an MBA, she joined the PHF last year as it resumed following a tumultuous two and-a-half year hiatus. Previously known as the National Women’s Hockey League, the league re-branded and expanded from four teams to seven. Tabin had no points in six contests with the Connecticut Whale.

“I think the difference last year was just that I hadn’t played in a while (owing to the global pandemic), and it’s always hard playing in the States. Just sorting out my visa and stuff like that and trying to find a place to live,” said Tabin.

“But this year, just playing in Canada and being with a bunch of old teammates, I think everything’s just kind of going right for me. Getting extra workouts in and stuff like that and having fun and good teammates definitely helps. Me and (teammate and fellow all-star) Brittany Howard are pretty close, she’s having a lot of success this year (league-leading 15 goals for the Ontario product). So it’s a lot of fun, challenging each other and then seeing each other get better.”

Boston (12-2-1) is the only team currently ahead of Toronto in the PHF standings, and Tabin said the type of rivalry that exists in the NHL between the Bruins and Maple Leafs extends to her club and the front-running Pride.

“When we play Boston, everyone kind of grips their sticks a little tighter and it’s a fun battle. It’s almost like Canada playing USA type of thing,” she said.

The biggest development for Tabin and her teammates came off the ice, with the salary cap more than doubling to US$750,000 per team for the 2022-23 season. There were also full health-care benefits and an equity stake in the teams for players. It was a literal game-changer for many. To put that in perspective, salaries now range between US$25,000 to US$80,000 for a five-month season.

The news got even better last month when the salary cap for the 2023-24 campaign was once again doubled, this time to US$1.5 million per team. That will represent a whopping 900 per cent growth over the 2021 cap.

“When we were back in college, we would always talk to each about what the heck are we going to do after? We loved hockey, but it was either you go and play in Europe, or you go and play (for the NWHL) at the time, but players weren’t really getting paid,” said Tabin, who works part-time as a skill instructor at a Toronto-area hockey academy.

“So you go get a full time job and play hockey, and props to those players who did that. But I couldn’t do that. But now, the salary increase and the opportunities we have, I am so thankful for this opportunity and to be a part of this kind of growth and women’s hockey right now. Never in a million years would I think that I’d be able to actually make a good wage and play hockey.”

There’s also plenty of rumblings about future expansion for the league, and Tabin would love to see her hometown get involved. There are currently a half dozen Manitobans in the PHF, including Alexis Woloschuk and Taylor Woods also on the Six. Former Olympian Sami Jo Small is Toronto’s team president, while former University of Manitoba Bisons star Venla Hovi is the head coach of the East Rutherford, N.J.-based Metropolitan Riveters.

“I think ever since the salary increase and a little background noise about a couple other teams joining our league. I’ve tried to put it in as many people’s ears as possible that it would be a fantastic place to get a PHF team,” said Tabin.

“Winnipeg is such a hockey city. A lot of fantastic females have come out of Winnipeg, and continue to come out of Manitoba. I think I’d be a great spot and I would absolutely love to be able to play in front of friends and family. Just like some guys who come out of Winnipeg and want to one day play for the Jets, it’s kind of the same thing and hopefully we can get there one day.”

Like the majority of hockey players who get to a big stage, Tabin has a village of supporters who helped get her to this stage.

“I have my family to thank for where I am. So thankful to have them by my side,” she said. “They stream all our games through ESPN+ and the TSN app. My Mom has come to three of my home weekends now, too, to watch.”

Having a decorated athlete like Small to lean on for advice doesn’t hurt, either.

“Sami obviously has a lot of accomplishments. She’s kind of been there, done that and now she’s kind of taking it to the next level from from a business point of view,” said Tabin. “I think she’s doing a great job marketing us and getting us out there. Not only our team but the league in general and females in hockey. So I think she’s doing a fantastic job in that role.”

Tabin will be thinking about everyone who’s helped her on the journey as she takes the next big step in her career this weekend at the All-Star Game in Toronto, which will be nationally televised in Canada on TSN at 6 p.m.

“It’s going to be a fun weekend,” she said. “I think it’ll be a chance to really promote our league, mingle among players and see what’s working for each team and what’s not. It’s a way to improve our league, and that’s kind of what we’re aiming to do. We want to make it big and just keep growing.”

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 5:52 PM CST: Fixes typo

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