On Lindsay Eastwood’s eighth birthday, she blew out the candles and wished to one day play professional hockey.
Sixteen years later, her dream is about to come true in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
After spending four seasons at Syracuse University, Eastwood signed with the NWHL’s newest franchise, the Toronto Six. On Saturday, Eastwood and her new teammates will play in what will be the organization’s first game of its inaugural season.
While suiting up for Syracuse, the 24-year old set school records as a defender — now the native of Kanata, Ont., will take her all-star pedigree to the pros.
“What I’m bringing from Syracuse is just to be my best on the ice,” said Eastwood. “Play hard, work hard, and have fun. Hopefully I can be a nice presence in the locker room.”
Eastwood was the leader of her team in university, acting as team captain during the 2019-20 season and playing in various off-ice roles that developed her into someone younger players on the squad looked up to.
Set to be a rookie in the NWHL, the defender knows that her role on the team won’t quite be the same as it was while playing in the NCAA.
“If I take on the leadership (role) it’s going to be in a different way,” stated Eastwood. “I’m a rookie — at times, I don’t want to say too much. I’ve never played professionally and there’s players (here) that have played for years. I don’t want to step on any toes. I listen and I learn.”
Eastwood led the Orange to the program’s first College Hockey America (CHA) championship in 2019, after scoring a hat trick in the semifinals to rally her team to a finals appearance. It’s the moment she remembers as the highlight of her career, as she awaits to make her professional debut with the Six.
Hockey runs deep in Eastwood family
On route to becoming a pro, Eastwood spent her childhood watching her uncle and former Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Mike Eastwood.
Throughout Eastwood’s collegiate career, her uncle — a former fifth-round pick of the Maple Leafs — was a helping hand with advice and training to the now Toronto Six blue-liner.
“It’s nice to know I have him to look to,” said Eastwood. “I got to watch him play in the NHL and I knew how cool that was, so that definitely instilled the goal (to play professionally) in my head.”
Representing Canada’s 1st NWHL team
The Six were announced as the NWHL’s new expansion franchise last April, but it wasn’t until June 11 when Eastwood was officially signed by Canada’s only professional women’s sports team.
“I really like what they had to offer and what they had to say,” said Eastwood. “It was a no brainer and I’m excited to be part of what we got going with the Six.”
The NWHL will play a condensed season from From Saturday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Feb. 5 in Lake Placid, N.Y. For Eastwood, with hopes that she can contribute to the start of something special for the team based in her home province.
“I want to say I’m going to Mark Messier-it and guarantee a Cup in the first season,” Eastwood said with a laugh. “It would be silly to say we didn’t want to win, so that’s definitely the goal.”
Along with on-ice goals that come with the Six, the defender also understands the importance of continuing to grow the game.
“We’re the only professional women’s team in Canada,” Eastwood said. “We have big shoes to fill. We just need to keep growing the game in Toronto, Ontario, and Canada, at that.”