The Toronto Six have a new head coach. Mark Joslin, who has had both Head Coach and General Manager titles with the Toronto Patriots in the OJHL up until this point, will be taking the reins behind the bench in Season 7.
“I just love where women’s hockey is right now and the direction it’s going,” said Joslin in a T6 press release, “It’s been a dream of mine to always coach pro hockey. Signing on with the Toronto Six after talking to Digit and getting this opportunity with the only (NWHL) franchise in Canada is special. I think timing-wise and where I am in my career, it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and educate to hopefully make a difference for this organization and make a good run at this.”
The Toronto Six were the number one seed coming out of the truncated Lake Placid season, but ultimately lost their semi-final 6-2 to a Boston Pride team who would later go on to win the Isobel Cup.
Digit Murphy, who coached the team in its inaugural season will not be leaving the organization, but will rather be stepping back from coaching duties and retaining her role as Team President, a role that she performed while also coaching the Six in 2021.
As reported by Marisa Ingemi, General Manager Mandy Cronin was let go by the Six in February of 2021. It can be assumed that Murphy, as Team President, was performing the roles and responsibilities of GM at that point.
Murphy’s continued presence in the league has been under scrutiny by many since early March of 2021. Indeed, it is irresponsible to discuss Murphy’s role in the organization and the changes to its management group without discussing her former support of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group.
The Working Group, while presenting itself as a “middle ground,” that advocates for the inclusion of trans women and girls in sport, has several proposed policies that would outright exclude, or place heavy conditions on the participation of, trans women and girls in sports. The language used by the Group, both in their Congressional briefing book and on their website is in many ways unacceptable, transphobic, and exclusionary.
After public pressure, the ownership group of the Toronto Six released a statement that included a confirmation that Murphy had “dissociated” from the group. Murphy also told Marisa Ingemi in an article for Sportsnet, that the Six organization has done panels with trans inclusive organizations and that education has opened her eyes.
Murphy’s comments in the Sportsnet article remain her only public comments on the matter. She has also neglected to publicly apologize, nor has the Six organization handed down any discipline.
Murphy was not originally the intended head coach for the Toronto Six, she was first hired as Team President and was only later named Head Coach in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hiring a head coach who is not also the Team President, seems to have been the plan for the Toronto Six from the beginning.
If Murphy is to continue with this organization, an apology was owed a long time ago. The Toronto Six have and continue to market themselves as an inclusive and affirming environment. In order for that marketing to ring true, there need to be further steps taken by both Murphy and the organization to publicly discuss what they have learned and what they have changed about their attitudes since learning it.
In terms of management and leadership, it’s crucial to have multiple voices in the room when making decisions for an organization. Head Coaches are part of the leadership structure within Hockey Operations, so it’s important to have someone separate from the President to be involved in the leadership core.
Joslin has had a moderate amount of success as the Head Coach of the Toronto Patriots in the past few seasons, performing particularly well in the regular season.
Murphy has herself admitted that she didn’t do a whole lot of the “X’s and O’s” coaching in Lake Placid, leaving things like tactics, line combinations and special teams to her assistant coaches, Spiros Anastas and Lisa Haley. It is worth noting that Haley and Anastas were present in Lake Placid when the Six had their best performances. Haley was not present for Toronto’s loss in the semi-final because of responsibilities pertaining to the Hungarian women’s national team, with which she is also involved.
The Toronto Six in Boston felt very different from the Toronto Six that we had seen in Lake Placid. Of course, Haley’s absence cannot entirely account for the differences in the team’s performance, but it is no doubt a factor.
Since the end of Season 6, Haley accepted a job with the League as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, and will not be returning behind the bench for the Six.
The Toronto Six have yet to announce anything about the assistant coaching staff for Season 7. The transition from Season 6 to Season 7 is already going to be an important one to navigate. To go from a season played at a single site location that was ultimately compromised, to a season that, if all goes according to plan, will involve travel and the Six’s first season at their home rink.
The organization is already preparing for Season 7, having resigned captain Shiann Darkangelo, defender Emma Greco and goaltender Elaine Chuli. Hiring someone like Joslin seems to have been the plan for the Six from the get-go. It will be worth watching to see what the Six do in Season 7.