Gopher, Fargo native Woken taken in the women's pro hockey draft
FARGO — It was a couple of weeks ago when Jack Brodt, the head coach of the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League, called Alex Woken to gauge her interest in playing for the pro franchise based in St. Paul. Woken, who just finished her career with the University of Minnesota, was all for it.
Especially with the way the season ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I definitely don’t want to hang up the skates just yet,” Woken said.
That was the last of the communication with Brodt. Earlier this week, Woken and her roommate tuned in to the NWHL draft knowing they might see some familiar names of players they either played with or against.
“Then I saw my name pop up on the screen,” Woken said. “I was in complete shock. My roommate was dying laughing, we had no idea.”
Woken was the fifth overall pick in the first round. Shock and laughing has since turned into future planning. The NWHL played its inaugural year in 2018, a concept that was essentially a continuation of the Western Women’s Hockey League that operated from 2004-11.
Franchises are located in Boston, Buffalo, Toronto, Danbury, Conn., and Monmouth Junction, N.J. Players are paid but it generally is not a living wage.
“You definitely still have to work on the side of it,” Woken said. “It’s not like a men’s pro hockey league but I think it’s getting better every year. I don’t know a whole lot about the NWHL just because it’s so new and I didn’t grow up with it.”
Woken grew up in Fargo, attended prep school for three years before signing with the Gophers. This season, Minnesota was 27-6-3 and lost 4-3 in overtime to Ohio State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship game. The NCAA Division I tournament was canceled because of the outbreak.
So, for now, the last game Woken played was an overtime heartbreaker. A forward, she finished with 16 goals and 16 assists in 36 games.
“I’m still craving hockey a lot,” she said.
The NWHL isn’t her only option. She said playing professionally in Europe “is still on the table” but the current pandemic restrictions could play into those plans. And hockey aside, her plans are to attend veterinary school in the fall of 2021.
“Ideally I’d like to go to the University of Minnesota,” she said. “It’s a great program and I love it down here in Minneapolis.”
That would probably fit with the Whitecaps schedule. Woken said the team practices about three times a week. They play at the TRIA Rink, the practice facility of the Minnesota Wild and the home ice of Hamline University. The 1,200-seat arena opened in early 2018.
“I heard the atmosphere is crazy,” Woken said. “I heard they pack it.”
Woken is staying in shape thanks to a set of weights at home, a jump rope, roller blades and shooting as many pucks as she can. And golf is part of her cross-training routine, too.
“Just doing anything outside,” she said.
Except, in this case this week, watching the five-round NWHL draft. She said Brodt’s message to her was pretty simple: “If you are planning on staying in the Cities,” he told her, “whether it’s school or working, we’d love to give you a spot on the team.”