2023 24 ntw maggie connors feature main

Maggie Connors comes full circle

Fourteen years after meeting Natalie Spooner, Maggie Connors laces up alongside her childhood idol with Canada’s National Women’s Team

Nicholas Pescod
February 8, 2024

When Maggie Connors was 10 years old, her mother entered her in a contest that allowed one lucky winner the opportunity to spend a day with Canada’s National Women’s Team.

At the time, the team, which included the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jocelyne Larocque, was in Connors’ hometown of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, for the 2010 4 Nations Cup, just months removed from Olympic gold in Vancouver.

“It was basically like a day in the life with Team Canada and whoever won got to meet the team, get things signed, got to hang out with them, got to go on the ice during warmup with them and watch a game,” Connors recalls.

Lo and behold, Connors won the contest and was paired with 20-year-old Natalie Spooner for the day.

“She was my mentor for the day,” says Connors. “It’s crazy, you learn how impactful little moments with fans and obviously with little hockey players can be because ever since that day, I always said Natalie Spooner was my favourite player.”

Fourteen years later, Connors, now 24 and lining up alongside Spooner with Toronto in the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), finds herself suiting up alongside her childhood idol in a different setting, this time as a member of Canada’s National Women’s Team in the Rivalry Series.

Connors, who made her Team Canada debut on Wednesday night in Saskatoon, calls it a full-circle moment.

“It’s surreal. It’s overwhelming. It’s everything you dream of in terms of pushing yourself to make this team. So, to be told that you're making the team, it's awesome,” she says. “The first thing you think about is the fastest way to get in touch with your family.”

Spooner, for her part, says she remembers the 2010 4 Nations Cup and being a mentor, but didn’t realize it was Connors until her teammate told her about it.

“It's pretty crazy. It probably makes me feel a little older than I'd like,” she says with a laugh. “I had some amazing idols that I got to look up to and see them play, and then getting to play with them was pretty amazing.”

This, however, is not the first time Connors has worn the Maple Leaf. She won a bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship and played in a pair of summer series with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in 2018 and 2019.

From the Rock to the world

Connors was born and raised in St. John’s and began playing hockey at an early age, thanks in some part to her two older brothers, Michael and Chris.

“My parents had my brothers in hockey, and I think just they wanted to have one sport that we all went to. We were pretty close in age, I have brothers born in 1997 and 1999 and I was born in 2000, so having one sport made it easier for my parents,” Connors explains. “They actually started with figure skating, but of course, that was at the rink, and that didn’t last long for me. I wasn’t the biggest fan of figure skating and I wanted to do what my brothers did. So, I switched over to hockey, probably when I was around four.”

A young Maggie Connors beside Marie-Philip Poulin at the 2010 Four Nations Cup in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
A young Maggie Connors with Marie-Philip Poulin and the National Women's Team at the 2010 4 Nations Cup. (Photo submitted)

In the fall of 2003, just shy of her 13th birthday, Connors made the decision to move 4,500 kilometres from home to attend the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Faribault, Minnesota.

“When it got time to make a decision on if I wanted to keep taking hockey seriously and to keep pursuing my dream of playing hockey and seeing how high I could make it, I needed to move away from home but Newfoundland has been a huge contribution to my success,” says Connors.

Over the course of five seasons (2013-18) at Shattuck-St. Mary's, she won four national championships — three with the 16U program and one with the 19U team — and finished her senior year with 75 points in 50 games.

During those five seasons, Connors stayed connected to home, representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, winning U16 gold at the 2015 Atlantic Challenge Cup and playing in the 2016 and 2017 National Women’s Under-18 Championships as a member of Team Atlantic.

“A lot of the credit of my early development goes to Hockey Newfoundland [and Labrador], developing me throughout my younger years. It was definitely difficult at times … there weren’t a ton of females playing hockey, so I was playing with the guys and [the provincial Member] was very supportive of that,” Connors says. “Representing Newfoundland was an awesome experience.”

After Shattuck-St. Mary's, Connors attended Princeton University, where she excelled on and off the ice. As a Tiger, Connors recorded 145 points (78-67—145) over four seasons, the 12th-most in school history. She made the ECAC All-Rookie Team (2017-18), ECAC Second All-Star Team (2018-19) and ECAC Third All-Star Team (2019-20), and earned a place on the ECAC All-Academic Team in all four seasons.

“I try to be a player that is a playmaker. I'm definitely offensively minded, and I love to play in the [offensive] zone. I love to use my creativity to create plays and create scoring chances and try to build some offence and create momentum,” Connors says about her game.

In September, Connors became the youngest player drafted by Toronto in the inaugural PWHL Draft when she was taken with the 62nd pick.

“I don’t think I could have gone to a better place. Toronto, obviously, the city, the sports market that we are in and the fans, you feel it and it is incredible,” she says. “I am just so lucky that I come out of university and everything is right here for me and there is a lot of gratitude that comes along with that.

“You’re playing for the little girl in the stands that’s holding the sign that says ‘Future PWHL hockey player’ and you’re playing for people who have already retired from hockey who wish they had gotten this kind of opportunity but it didn’t work out and so, I am super grateful for the timing.”

Connors has posted three points (1-2—3) in nine games, playing on a line with her childhood idol, something she dreamed of as a 10-year-old.

“We're playing together now and it’s a crazy full-circle moment. She’s been obviously a huge idol of mine and one of my favourite players, and to be able to now learn from her and pick her brain every day is awesome. She’s a remarkable player and a great idol.”

Spooner says she’s happy to serve as a mentor to Connors and believes she has all the tools to be successful at the international level.

" I remember when I was her age and getting to play alongside older players like Hayley Wickenheiser and looking up to her and her taking [me under her] wing and make sure that I was confident, and I've tried to do the same for Maggie," she says. "She has all the skill. Now, she just has to go out there and believe in herself and play her game."
A 10-year-old Maggie Connors stands with the National Women's Team ahead of a game at the 2010 4 Nations Cup. Connors won a contest that let her a spend a day with Canada’s National Women’s Team.
A 10-year-old Maggie Connors stands with the National Women's Team ahead of a game at the 2010 4 Nations Cup. Connors won a contest that let her a spend a day with Canada’s National Women’s Team. (Photo submitted)

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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