Haley Mack made history Wednesday night by becoming the first Bemidji State player ever selected in the National Women’s Hockey League draft. That she was taken by her home state Minnesota Whitecaps was an added bonus.
“There’s a lot of good players out there,” the East Grand Forks native said. “I’m just very honored to be recognized by the Whitecaps organization. It’s something very, very cool and special.”
The Whitecaps took Mack with the 23rd overall pick in the draft’s fourth round. She’ll be joining a team that took home the Isobel Cup championship in its first NWHL season in 2018-19 and was set to play in this season’s final before the coronavirus pandemic postponed the March title game.
“It meant the world to me,” Mack said of being taken by her home state team. “I’m so excited to have an opportunity to possibly extend my hockey career with the Whitecaps in the state of hockey.”
Mack, who has been training in East Grand Forks while finishing up the semester remotely, learned Tuesday in an email from the Whitecaps that they intended to draft her Wednesday.
“I was just going to go with the flow and see wherever life brought me,” Mack said regarding her outlook on playing professionally prior to the draft. “I got this opportunity, so I think it’s very fitting and really exciting.”
Opportunities for women’s hockey players beyond college were once not as plentiful in the U.S. The NWHL, entering its sixth season in 2020-21, has helped change that.
“It’s pretty special. Growing up you didn’t see this and it’s just really, really cool to see the women’s game growing like this,” Mack said. “It’s really cool for younger kids to see this type of thing happening with the draft, with women being able to have a possible career in hockey, or just to continue playing the game that we all love. It’s just cool that there’s opportunity out there for girls.”
Mack will join a team that already features one former Beaver in 2016 graduate Stephanie Anderson, a forward who’s put up 10 points (4g-6a) in 22 games during her first season with the Whitecaps.
Mack arrived in Bemidji shortly after Anderson graduated and has certainly left her mark on the program. Her 38 career goals rank fifth in program history, including a BSU-record five shorthanded goals. She could have racked up even more if not for an injury-shortened junior season.
Injury setback behind her, Mack recorded career highs in points (28) and goals (15) as a senior in 2019-20, both team highs, while playing in all 37 games. For her career, Mack totaled 77 points (38g-39a) in 132 games.
“Haley Mack is one of the most competitive players I have ever coached and absolutely hates to lose at anything,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said in a tweet posted by the NWHL. “She is a natural goal scorer who is deceptively fast, quick in the tight areas, and has a great release. Her competitiveness, quickness and hockey sense made her an outstanding penalty killer at Bemidji State and became the program record holder for shorthanded goals.”
Mack will soon graduate from BSU with a degree in marketing communications.
“My four years at Bemidji were absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “The coaching staff and my teammates are just top-notch. They’re all such classy, respectful people that made my career truly amazing. I can’t thank Bemidji State enough. Athletically and academically, they have done so much for me and I’ll never forget my experience there. I’ll always be proud to have played for a program like that.”