Kelly Babstock took a fifth year at Quinnipiac University, ending her collegiate career playing not hockey, but lacrosse. Little did she know that fifth year she spent in Connecticut would be a perfect bridge to the start of the NWHL.
“Before I found out about the league, I was going to go back home to Toronto,” she reflects. “Then, I heard about the league, and that there was a team in Connecticut, so I was very excited because I’ve been [in Connecticut] for five years, so it was already a home to me.”
Now, Babstock is almost on her sixth year in Connecticut, and she will be there for at least another season with the Whale. Despite some of her old teammates signing elsewhere, the decision was easy for Babstock to re-sign with the Whale.
“I really wanted to play again, and I wanted to stay in Connecticut … You always dream as a little girl, thinking of playing professional hockey when you’re older, and this league here is a dream come true. To play the game you love and get paid for it is a great feeling.”
Living in the Moment
For Babstock, despite her change in plans from Toronto to Connecticut, she simply went with the flow and pursued her childhood dream.
“There was a great feeling knowing that there was a paid professional women’s hockey league, which has never happened before. It was exciting to be a part of making history, and my favorite part was just living in the moment,” she says.
Perhaps this illustrates why Babstock found her place with the Whale. With their motto of “Fins Up,” she describes them as “just keep going, and don’t let anything get in the way.”
Still, Babstock graduated last May and realized that despite her excitement to start with the league, she needed another job. She picked up a job coaching youth teams and youth players, enjoying the impact she is making.
“I love helping the kids grow, and it’s fun to help and coach young players,” states Babstock. True to form, she has continued with hockey and lacrosse, coaching both.
A Happy Family
Her passion for both sports stems from her family, as her and her brother grew up playing hockey and lacrosse every year. While her parents love both sports, they lean towards hockey. Luckily for her family, the NWHL provided the Babstock with the opportunity to watch their daughter play again.
“They love watching me play. They definitely missed it when I took a year off,” claims Babstock. “They came down a couple times. My mom, my dad, and my little brother came down to watch the game and drove back, which is like eight hours.” The only thing missing from that family visit was her three dogs and cat, which were left behind in Canada due to border restrictions.
Despite the fact that playing professional women’s hockey was new to her, one thing that did not change was her family. Babstock emphasizes how close she is with her family when asked about the decision to stay in Connecticut.
“They always supported me, and they were really happy for me. As long as I’m happy, they’re happy.” Babstock’s happiness and excitement for the second season is contagious and has permeated to her old hockey team.
“There’s a lot of great girls on the Quinnipiac team. They just won their first ECAC title in school history, and they’re solid players that are graduating, so I’m like ‘Come on! Let’s go play for the Whale so we can be teammates again.’” Her eagerness for the second season to arrive is palpable.
“I’m just really excited to get back out there again and play some great hockey.”