(Photo: Melissa Burgess)
Buffalo Beauts forward Corinne Buie is a champion, once again. Buie and her Beauts teammates won the Isobel Cup as NWHL champions this past season. On its own, this would be a phenomenal accomplishment and surely one to strive for. But Buie? She is a champion time and time again, with the most recent Isobel Cup victory marking her third consecutive professional-league championship.
Two years ago, Buie was playing in the CWHL with the Boston Blades on a team stacked with talent, including Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, Tara Watchorn, Monique Lamoureux, and Genevieve Lacasse. Buie racked up nine points (5-4) in 20 games during that season with the Blades, adding a pair of assists in the Clarkson Cup playoffs.
It was her first season in the professional leagues, fresh out of four years with Providence College -- a season capped off by a Clarkson Cup victory. The icing on the cake: Buie's assist on the championship-winning goal, an overtime tally by Janine Weber.
Following that season, Buie joined many of her Blades teammates in the move to the NWHL. She remained in Boston -- this time with the Pride -- and once again found herself on a championship squad.
Through the NWHL's first season, Buie notched seven points (3G, 4A) in 18 games with the Pride. Her 44 shots on goal were the fourth most on the stacked Boston team, and when all was said and done, she was a part of history: the first-ever Isobel Cup Championship team, and her second straight professional women's hockey title.
Coming off the win, Buie signed with the Buffalo Beauts for the 2016-2017 NWHL season. General manager Ric Seiling called Buie a "proven winner", noting her skating and puck-handling as two of her best attributes.
After a struggling season in which the Beauts had a tough time stringing together wins, Buffalo did the seemingly impossible, defeating Boston for the Isobel Cup -- Buie's third straight championship.
To top it off, she scored the Cup-winning goal. It doesn't get much sweeter than that.
"It's pretty much a dream come true," she said.
"It's been a whirlwind. It was more expected in Boston, but to be able to come to Buffalo and do it here is just incredible," Buie added.
Buie grew up in the hockey hotbed of Edina, Minnesota, so it's only natural that she ended up where she is today.
"I saw people skating, and I wanted to try it," she said. But hockey isn't the only sport Buie knows; growing up, she played basketball, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse. Once she reached high school, her focus shifted largely to soccer and hockey.
In high school, Buie took the jersey number 10, in honor of former Minnesota Wild right winger Marian Gaborik.
After high school, it was all hockey, as a scholarship to Providence College led her to the rink. In four years with the Friars, Buie scored 100 points (44G, 56A) in 128 games. Then, it was off to the CWHL and, eventually, the NWHL.
Having played in both professional leagues, Buie says there are small differences between the play in the CWHL and that of the NWHL, including that the Canadian league can be slightly more physical.
"It was just good to be able to play against the top Canadian players," she said. "It's not like there's that much of a difference, but the play that they have varies a little bit from girls who grow up in America. To be able to be exposed to both of those leagues has been great."
Relatively speaking, both the CWHL and NWHL are fairly young. But Buie said she always knew she wanted to keep playing for as long as she could, and the leagues have helped her do just that.
"When I was younger, I always dreamed of being in the Olympics," Buie said.
"I loved watching the high school Edina girls' hockey team," she said. "I remember going to the games and having my dad point out these girls, and I would just watch them and want to be like them."
"I saw girls in the WNBA and thought that was the most amazing thing ever. In the back of my mind, I hoped that it would happen," she added.
If she hadn't gotten the opportunity to play professional women's hockey, Buie says she would likely have chosen to play soccer, hopefully professionally. If not, coaching or another sports-related job would likely have been her pursuit.
On the ice, Buie calls herself a good skater, echoing Seiling's comments from the preseason. She also notes her hard shot, an aspect of the game that she's been working on tirelessly.
"I'm not the flashiest, but I'm a hard worker and I play both ends of the ice," Buie said. "Oh, and I can score goals, too."
Scoring the championship-winning goal for Buffalo was certainly quite a feat for Buie. Other than being on the other side of the ice for this year's game, the main difference between the 2016 Isobel Cup championship and the 2017 one was a three-game series versus a one-game, winner-takes-all format.
Buie said that this year, she preferred the one-game format.
"I thought it was something good for us," she said. "I mean, we hadn't had a win against Boston all year, so it was like, maybe this is the time."
"Anything can happen in one game," she said.
"Nobody expected us to win, but knowing that it was just one game, we just had to beat them once," she said. "It would've been more difficult to beat them back-to-back, but just knowing it was one game, and having come off those two wins before it, there was a feeling that we could really do it. And we did."
Buie noted that although she enjoyed the one-game format this year, she would like to see the NWHL go back to a series format for the Isobel Cup championship in the future.
Other than that, Buie said she has some ideas as to what she'd like to see in the league in years to come. But for now, she'd like "more transparency, and putting the players first...to sign a contract and know that it's going to be valid and followed through on, to be able to trust that."
With the NWHL approaching its third season and second offseason (draft and free agency dates were recently announced) there are still questions looking ahead, including those about how much players will be paid in the year to come.
For now, however, the 25-year-old is staying in Buffalo for the offseason, living with teammate Jordyn Burns and working at a local coffee shop three days a week. Buie said she's looking to stay active this summer, perhaps look for other hockey-related work, and prepare for the next season -- which she hopes will be back with the Beauts.
As she continues her professional hockey career, what's the best part of it all in Buie's eyes?
"It sounds cheesy," she said, "but being able to pave the way for future generations of young girls who will someday be able to make a living off of this, and be able to just play hockey. Knowing that we're an inspiration for them is just awesome."
"Being able to do what I love, to be able to still be doing this and have people who care and want to watch us, want to support us," she said.
The NWHL's third season is expected to kick off in October with its same Founding Four teams. The league recently announced a free agent camp to be held in Marlborough, MA, May 13-14. The restricted free agency period runs May 1 -- May 31, with unrestricted agency opening on June 1. The NWHL Draft -- not a junior draft like last year, but open to any player who has graduated college or an equivalent -- will be held on August 17.