After starting her third PHF season with the Buffalo Beauts, forward Autumn MacDougall never envisioned herself changing teams in the middle of the season. But in mid-January, she asked for and was granted her release from the team who drafted her (2020) and was able to find a new hockey home with the Montréal Force.
The 25-year-old finished her Beauts career with 19 points (9g-10a) over 34 games, and MacDougall added two assists to that total in 13 games with the first-year Force. When she was let go in Buffalo the team had their say with their own statements in the press release, but we wanted to give MacDougall a chance to tell her side of the story.
We caught up with her in New Jersey after Montréal’s second-to-last game of the season to find out how she’s doing, what this season has been like, and possibly what the future holds for her.
The Ice Garden: What was it like changing teams midseason? That isn’t something we see a lot of in this space, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
Autumn MacDougall: It definitely wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies; it’s more complicated, I think, than some people think. I love being in Montréal, I love the organization, and I’m so grateful that they gave me a chance to continue playing. I felt like I needed a fresh start. I love the coaches here and the team; it’s been good for me.
TIG: Since the Beauts released you I don’t think you’ve had the opportunity to speak about what went down, and we wanted to give you a chance to say your piece. From your view, why didn’t things work out in Buffalo?
AM: It was totally my choice. Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time, women’s hockey is starting to become a business now, and things happen like this in sports all the time where maybe you need a change of environment or space. I felt for me, for my hockey career, it was best to play for a new team and a new coach. It was definitely bittersweet playing them (the Beauts) last weekend ... I have a lot of friends still on that team, and I made a lot of memories there. Two and a half seasons ... I grew up a little there and became the player I am. I don’t want to comment too much more on it all.
TIG: That’s fine, you've earned the chance to say what you wanted to say. When the team released you they put out a statement, but we wanted to hear your side of things.
AM: I totally left on good terms. I don’t think anyone has switched teams (midseason) in the PHF before, but I think it can be something that someone can do if they want to or if they need a change. It’s been great playing for [head coach Peter [Smith]; he’s a great coach. It’s funny, I tried to go to McGill University — where he coached — and when I was in grade 12 he kind of passed on me. So we joke about it now. I’m grateful he gave me a second chance here in Montréal. I respect him a lot, and I know he respects me, so I’m glad I got that second chance to play for him.
TIG: Obviously, nine was your number in Buffalo but now with Montréal you’re rocking no. 90 because someone was already wearing nine here. That’s a big number on your back nowadays, is it heavy, and how is that working out for you?
AM: Yeah (laughs), I don’t know, I might have to change numbers again next season. But nine was taken and I wanted to keep a nine so I just added a zero. I think the bigger numbers mean bigger jerseys, haha, so this one is kind of big on me. I might have to change that next year.
TIG: You mentioned next season twice, so, safe to assume you’d like to continue playing, right? Please say yes.
AM: For sure. I love hockey so much and I’m very passionate about it. I wish I had more of an impact here in Montréal during the last half of the season, but I think for me it’s about trying to get my confidence back, back to where it was last year. I obviously want to play, wherever that may be; I hope it’s Montréal. But I want to show the league, and everyone, what I’m really capable of. I feel like this [season] isn’t what I’m capable of. A lot of that comes from confidence and the mental side of things.