The Buffalo Beauts continue to put the rest of the NWHL on notice with yet another aggressive off-season move as they signed three-time olympian Shannon Szabados.
“It’s an incredible feeling. An honor,” Szabados said of the signing. “I think what they’ve done in the last little while with the (Pegula) ownership, with the way they’re taking the league and women’s hockey, it’s pretty exciting.”
Szabados, a 31-year-old goalie who hails from Edmonton, has backstopped Team Canada in the last three Olympic Games, winning gold in the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi games.
She was also on Team Canada’s silver-winning squad that fell to Team USA, 3-2, in a shootout during the gold medal game in the 2018 games. Szabados earned Top Goalie honors in all three Olympics.
Facing a room full of media caught Szabados somewhat off guard, but it also showed her the impact she is instantly making on the league.
“Yeah I’m starting to see it,” Szabados said with a smile as her eyes scanned the media. “It’s been pretty cool. I was a little nervous about this signing, to see where it was gonna go. My phone has been blowing up with some positive responses. I think it’s good for women’s hockey and I’m excited to be here.”
Szabados said part of the nerves she felt stemmed from the unknown that she will face coming into a women’s pro league for the first time.
Beauts assistant coach Craig Muni said this is not only a huge signing for the Beauts but for the NWHL as a whole as Szabados brings star quality to the league.
“It’s kind of monumental on the world stage,” Muni said. “With her being Canadian and playing in the American pro league. It’s just another step towards joining forces and promoting women’s hockey.”
Beauts GM Nik Fattey said the Beauts didn’t just get a top-notch player in Szabados. They have a true professional who will be a great influence in the locker room.
“Her international pedigree and unprecedented success in men’s leagues demonstrate the quality play she’ll bring to our crease,” Fattey said.
The Szabados signing comes in the heels of signing Dani Cameranesi and goalie Nicole Hensley, who were part of Team USA’s gold medal squad.
As well as Kelly Babstock who is the Connecticut Whale’s all-time leading scorer.
The Beauts also re-signed core players captain Corinne Buie, and WNY natives Hayley Scumurra, Maddie Elia and Jacquie Greco.
Szabados’ resume would have allowed her to write her own ticket to sign with any one of the five teams in the league. But Buffalo had an interesting advantage over the rest of the NWHL and the CWHL.
“My boyfriend is from Ohio. About two years ago, after the Olympics, we decided that we were going to move back to Ohio,” Szabados said. “Buffalo has kinda been on my radar ever since then because of its close proximity. Just getting a chance to talk to some of the staff. Learning a little bit more about the team and the direction that they want to go swayed me.”
While proximity certainly played a big role in Szabados’ decision she said that considering all factors, Buffalo is without question the place to be.
“I think the professionalism (of the Pegula’s). Where they want to take this team and how they are treating it as a professional team,” Szabados said. “The facilities here (at HarborCenter) are world class and it’s an exciting time for Buffalo. The NWHL. The CWHL and women’s hockey as a whole.”
A true trailblazer in the game, Szabados was the first female to play in the Western Hockey League and the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
In 2013, she became the first female to sign and play in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Szabados picked up her first pro win on Nov. 21, 2014 when she made 34 saves in the Columbus Cottonmouths’ 5-4 win over Fayetteville.
On Dec. 27, 2014, she again made history by becoming the first women to earn a shutout in a men’s professional game as the Cottonmouths blanked Huntsville 3-0.
Now, to finally have the chance to play against her peers in the professional women’s league is something Szabados didn’t expect to ever have.
“I played my entire career on men’s teams and guys teams growing up,” Szabados said. “When I started it was my only option. So it’s great to see the growth of women’s hockey and where it is today. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re headed in the right direction, for sure. I’m excited. It’ll be my first full season in a women’s team, outside of (international) play.”
With Team USA members Dani Cameranesi and goalie Nicole Hensley has also signed with the Beauts it begged the tongue-in-cheek question of is there any carryover of bad feelings?
Szabados laughed and said there was no bad blood.
“No, not at all. Maybe when they put on that blue, white and red on,” Szabados said. “But when we’re in the Beauts baby blue, I’m excited.”