Rhode Island’s Margaret “Digit” Murphy, one of the most victorious coaches in NCAA women’s hockey over her 22 seasons at Brown University, has been announced as the president of Toronto’s new (yet to be named) franchise in the National Women’s Hockey League.
Digit, a Cranston, RI, native, who also coached the Boston Blades to two Clarkson Cup championships in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and previously coached in China, comes to her new position after being one the most vocal critics of the NWHL when the American-based league first launched.
For the past several weeks, Digit has been making the promotional rounds on video conferencing platforms and podcasts, explaining her change of mind and her hopes for her new team, women’s hockey in general, and, importantly, the players.
On a recent ESPN podcast, Digit recalled, “When I started at Brown it was 1987, and we grew it to where it is today. The players are really benefiting from the hard work of people who came before them like Katy Stone, Jackie Barto, Heather Linstad, Kelly Dyer, and Cammi Granato from the early days. All these pioneers made it possible for players to get scholarships in the NCAA. So literally these guys got a lot of money, when you really think about what the value was for a player in the NCAA – $50,000 over four years, that’s $200,000.
“In my opinion,” she added, “it’s now the players’ chance to take that same leadership role in the pro space and exponentially grow it. If you’re fighting amongst yourself, amongst scarce resources, it’s just not a model that can work, and we need to change that.”
Asked about the value of an endorsement from the NHL, Digit enthusiastically responded, “Absolutely, and I think the NHL being a part of this is a great “and” to what we’re doing. I think a sponsorship or a partnership is where we want to go. Personally, I don’t think the NHL taking us over does a women’s empowerment platform that much good. Although I would completely welcome the help and the guidance and the mentorship on how to grow it potentially differently on the other side.”
Digit, so well respected as a leader and a coach, has already signed some top talent who immediately came calling when they learned of her appointment. She’s already hard on the recruiting trail to fill the balance of Toronto’s roster. One her next important tasks is securing an appropriately sized arena.
“We probably will go into an arena that is similar to the league’s other current venues. This is a long-term strategy by our ownership. It’s not like we’re going to go into a 5,000-seat arena and fill it. With that said, we have a couple of arenas in mind. We need obviously a professional-type arena that can seat 1,000 or so. The No. 1 goal is to fill those arenas.”