Sports feature

An Interview With Hayley Scamurra

January 2nd, 2024, was a night Hayley Scamurra will never forget.

That was the historic first game for Ottawa’s new Professional Women’s Hockey League team, and like every other player in the league, Scamurra was thrilled to be part of it.

The 29-year-old forward from Buffalo, New York, had already enjoyed several lifetimes worth of great, well-earned hockey memories. Scamurra has been a Team USA member since 2019, winning two gold and two silver medals at the World Championships. She had also competed at the 2022 Olympics, taking home silver.

But this night was something unique. With 8,318 fans in attendance, Ottawa’s home game against Montreal set a record for attendance (since broken) at a professional women’s hockey game.

“Playing in front of our home crowd in Ottawa was more incredible than I could’ve imagined,” Scamurra said. “I got very emotional when we received a standing ovation during warmups! You could feel their excitement and energy throughout that entire game. Even when we lost, they stayed and cheered for us as if we had won. I’m very grateful for our fan base.”

But this unforgettable evening for women’s hockey in Ottawa also came with a special individual moment for Scamurra.

It happened at 16:23 of the second period in a scoreless game. Scamurra was set up on the left side of the power play at the top of the circle. After teammate Zoe Boyd hit her with an easy 15-foot pass to the outside, Scamurra took three strides and hammered a perfectly placed slap shot in the top corner of the Montreal net for the very first goal in Ottawa PWHL franchise history.

And TD Place Arena went bananas.

“I’ve never experienced a crowd that loud before,” Scamurra said. “And the amount of support and love I received after the game was incredible. I remember when our equipment manager asked for my stick to put it in the Hall of Fame. I think that’s when it truly hit how special and historic that moment was.”

Like many great hockey careers, Scamurra’s journey began on the family’s backyard rink, built by her father. Peter Scamurra also reached hockey’s highest level, holding the distinction of being the first player from Buffalo to be drafted into the NHL. He was selected in the first round by the Washington Capitals and played 132 games with the club in the late 1970s. After his career, he passed his love of hockey down to his kids, and Hayley says he’s been instrumental in her career. 

Oh, and he had a secret weapon to inspire Hayley to lace up the blades in those early days.

“He bribed me with M&M’s to skate in our backyard rink with my three older brothers,” Scamurra said. “He was my coach all through growing up and continues to coach me to this day. He taught me the importance of work ethic and being a coachable player.” 

What was it like in the house and the backyard trying to keep up with your older brothers? Do you think competing with them had a hand in your hockey success?

Our house was the place to be for me and all of my brother’s teammates and friends. My dad always built a backyard rink so we constantly had friends over playing through the night. We turned our kitchen into a locker room and had mats all down our deck so we could get to the rink from our kitchen. I think competing with them definitely made me more competitive and ready to battle. 

Did you have other sports or passions when you were growing up?

I played tennis and soccer as well. I played soccer competitively until my junior year of high school when I focused on hockey exclusively. Tennis I played for fun because that was my dad’s first sport growing up. I still play tennis every summer with my dad and brothers. 

When did you realize that you could maybe play at the highest level of women’s hockey someday?

I think I realized it my sophomore year of high school when colleges started reaching out to recruit. Before that, I don’t think it was really on my radar at all. I just loved the game. 

Participating in the 2022 Olympics Beijing must have 

been amazing.

My Olympic experience was incredible. It truly hit during the Opening Ceremonies that I achieved my dream of making the Olympic team. It was so much fun getting to know other Team USA athletes and hear about their journeys and how they differed from ours. I loved going to other events and cheering our fellow athletes on. It felt like Team USA University at times! 

What was it like to be part of history at the very first PWHL Draft Day and getting selected by Ottawa?

Draft day was exciting but also stressful. Waiting for your name to be called, it felt like an eternity. When I was selected by Ottawa, I was elated. After my talks with the team, I felt like Ottawa was a really good fit for me considering they wanted their style of play to be gritty. I also loved the coaching staff and the facilities and resources they were offering. Their main focus was to have a professional setup and they have definitely exceeded that this season. 

How would you describe the Ottawa PWHL team?

Our team is truly a family. We keep it light and fun whenever we can, but we get gritty and intense when the time comes. We are a team where you will always see our effort and passion on the ice. We are always going to be a hard team to play against. 

How are you enjoying the city of Ottawa so far?

I’m loving the city! As soon as I arrived, I felt welcomed by the community. It feels like a small town community here in the way everyone supports their local teams and shops. 

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I would like to thank our Ottawa fans for their support. We definitely have the rowdiest fan base and we love them for it! We can feel their energy and support on the ice and it really helps us.


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