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A homecoming marks Corinne Buie’s sixth season in the NWHL

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Buie’s departure from Buffalo has been bittersweet

Pat McCarthy

“Forward Corinne Buie Comes Home, Signs With Minnesota.”

Those eight words splashed onto a press release from the NWHL’s PR department sent shock waves through the women’s hockey fanbase and media community. After all, Buffalo had been Corinne Buie’s home for the past four seasons. She won an Isobel Cup here, made a home for herself on the Beauts roster, as well as in the city itself.

Over time, she had proven herself to be the quintessential Beaut — hardworking, nose to the grindstone, with a quiet but intense leadership that helped Buffalo keep its streak of Isobel Cup Final appearances intact until this most recent 2019-20 campaign.

And now, that legacy in Beauts’ blue has ended.

Buie is one of eight players who have been with the NWHL since Day One, and only one of two (next to Kaleigh Fratkin) who have played on half the teams in the league. In that span, she has lifted Izzy twice, captained two Beauts squads, and been to three All-Star weekends — an impressive resume. Add on a Clarkson Cup with the now-defunct CWHL’s Boston Blades, some size, strength, and an all-around game like almost no other in the league, and you have a player anyone with sense would kill to have on their roster.

Now, she is a Whitecap, in a huge bag for a team that has quickly moved up the ranks as a Cup contender in its two short seasons as an NWHL team. In fact, had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred, the Whitecaps would have made their second consecutive Isobel Cup appearance as defending champion. Speed, skill, and solid goaltending are their hallmarks, with All-Stars like Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, and another former Beaut in Amanda Leveille headlining the roster.

With all of that, one would think the Edina-born forward would have jumped sooner. But for Buie, it really wasn’t that simple.

“I guess it was more of a life decision than a hockey decision, really,” she said of the move. “I’ve been gone for 10 years… and, you know, with the pandemic, I ended up coming home for a little bit and then reflecting and just realizing that I wanted to come back and settle in Minnesota where my family is.”

That 10-year odyssey took her from Minnesota to Providence College, where she excelled as a member of the Friars, joining their 100-point club with 128 games over four very consistent seasons. There, she also excelled at special teams, with nine points on the skater-advantage in her senior season alone.

From there, she moved to Boston with the CWHL’s Boston Blades and then the NWHL’s Boston Pride on a star-studded roster that nabbed her her first Isobel Cup, but not a whole lot of playing time. Still, she tallied seven points altogether in her 18 games played, and it was surely a good experience for what was yet to come for the 5-foot-9 forward.

Buie then made the decision to move up to Buffalo, where she flourished as a forward able to take faceoffs, play both ends of the ice, and thrive on almost any line in any situation. In the process, she made a second home for herself in North Buffalo, working at Hertel Avenue coffee spot the Daily Planet and embracing her role as a leader and one of the faces of the team.

“I think I’ve been pretty consistent my whole career,” she says. “I’ve played to my strengths, stayed in my lane. I haven’t been trying to change my game to be something else. I know what I can do well, and I go out and do it the best I can.”

The numbers also don’t lie. Buie has gotten to the top of the NWHL pack and proven herself to be a threat no matter where she’s at. She’s in the top-10 and second on the Beauts when it comes to goal scoring with 25 (and counting), limits her time in the penalty box, and yet still has a power to her game that for four years helped Buffalo maintain its status as a competitor for Izzy nearly every season. She’d also served as team captain for three seasons (sharing the captaincy in 2018-19 with Emily Matheson), providing steadiness and a sense of ease whenever you watch her play or lead the bench.

But all of that is tempered with soft-spoken humility as Buie says ultimately what matters is just playing the game, a sentiment she has echoed in past interviews.

“Obviously I’m competitive and I enjoy getting those accomplishments, but it’s also what I’ve enjoyed doing,” she said. “I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t enjoy those things, but that’s not what it’s all about. I love to compete.”

Pat McCarthy

In addition to competing, Buie has spent the past few seasons bearing witness to a litany of changes as the NWHL has gone through its growing pains. Salary cuts in Season Two, the Pegulas coming along mid-Season Three and then leaving again after Season Four, and then the PWHPA’s come up through the 2019-20 season have all provided their own levels of hardship and even some division within the women’s hockey world. In a matter of months, Buie and others throughout the league have watched teammates leave the league and hold out for something more, something better, in their eyes.

With that said, Buie doesn’t have any regrets about keeping her skates on NWHL ice.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of this from the start and to still be a part of it,” she said. “I’ve seen so much growth in the level of play, the young girls coming up are getting better and I’m just so happy that — yes, there’s been ups and downs, but we’re making big strides forward each year. The feedback [the league] is getting from us, they’re using it to make the league better each year. It’s exciting.”

In addition, she pointed out, the NWHL Players’ Association (spearheaded by Anya Packer) has been monumental in getting the players closer to achieving what was promised back in 2015. Still, no one can expect the world in such a short time frame from what is essentially a startup.

“This league is very young, you know?” she said. “So I think that it’s important that we know what we deserve, but we can’t expect to have all of that instantly.

“I know we’re all working toward a common goal for girls to be able to play pro and do this as their one job, and I see that in the future.”

For the present, meanwhile, she is focused on settling back down in her home state, catching up with former opponents and teammates, having become teammates once more in the Twin Cities. In addition, she says, she’s looking into getting a business career going, with her spare time spent helping assistant coach for a local high school girls’ team.

Her time in Buffalo well spent, Buie says she hopes Beauts fans know it was a tough decision to leave.

“This wasn’t something I took lightly,” she said. “I hope that they know how much I appreciate everything [the fans] did for us while I was there. We have such great fans, so dedicated and loyal, and I’m definitely gonna miss that.”