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Wiikwemkoong member showcasing her hockey skills in Switzerland

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Wiikwemkoong member Kelly Babstock is currently playing for a women’s hockey team in the Swiss city of Lugano. – Photo courtesy of Kelly Babstock

By Sam Laskaris

LUGANO, SWITZERLAND – Ideally Kelly Babstock would prefer to be playing in the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL); however, is certainly not complaining where she has ended up for the remainder of the 2023-24 campaign.

Babstock, a member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, had a tryout with the New York franchise in the North American circuit, which began play earlier this month. The PWHL features six clubs this season, including three Canadian ones – Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.

Besides New York, the U.S. entrants are Boston and Minnesota.

After being cut by the New York squad, Babstock, 31, began exploring other options. She decided to sign on with the Hockey Club Ladies Lugano squad in the top women’s league in Switzerland.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Babstock said of her release from the PWHL’s New York team and her subsequent signing overseas.

Babstock added that she did have other European offers before deciding to join the Lugano club.

“There was a team in Sweden that was interested and one in Finland,” she said. “But I chose Lugano.”

This isn’t the first time that Babstock has played in Switzerland. She recalled that when she was a collegiate star for Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, her club played a pair of exhibition contests in Switzerland.

Babstock joined the Lugano side in December. She played three games with the team before Christmas prior to returning to North America for the holidays.

Babstock has lived in Connecticut since her university days, but during the break, she also travelled to see family members in the Ontario city of Mississauga, where she grew up.

She returned to Switzerland in early January. Babstock had earned six points (three goals and three assists) in her first four matches with the Lugano team.

“The hockey is a bit different but I just want to play,” she said.

Babstock is also part of a youthful Lugano club.

“It’s a young squad,” she said. “They have a lot of players from Italy and Switzerland.”

Babstock said she is also enjoying the fact that she’s learning another language.

“I’m learning a bit of Italian,” she said, adding the team is providing a translator for her since she is also passing on her hockey knowledge to teammates who do not speak English.

Italian is one of Switzerland’s official languages.

Babstock has played seven seasons of pro hockey in North America.

After graduating from university, she signed on with the Connecticut Whale, a team that participated in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). She played three seasons with the Whale before spending the 2018-19 campaign with the Buffalo Beauts.

Babstock also spent one season with the New Jersey-based Metropolitan Riveters in the NWHL, and toiled with the Riveters in the rebranded Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) the last two seasons.

Babstock, who played in the PHF all-star game in Toronto this past year, said she is hoping to catch on with a PWHL team next season.

“I definitely want to continue trying to play there,” she said.

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Rice will serve as a mentor for program featuring budding Indigenous writers

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