Sunday’s Isobel Cup win against the Boston Pride was Buffalo Beauts forward Harrison Browne’s last game with the league. This was the first championship Browne had won in both his NCAA and post-graduate career and he was relishing the every second.
“This is the best moment I’ve felt in a very long time,” Browne told media after the Final win Sunday night. “It’s great to go out as a champion. To win my last game ever in the NWHL, it’s unreal. It’s unreal.”
While he used female pronouns in his first season with the league, Browne made a splash in the fall by announcing his preferred name and pronouns, making him the first openly transgender athlete to play a professional team sport in North America.
Browne, who is now the first openly transgender athlete to win a team championship in North America, announced in March via the New York Times that he would retire after this season in order to further pursue his gender transition.
Although Browne will pursue a career in sports business post-retirement, he will continue to serve on the NWHL’s Board of Advisors to help set policy, specifically regarding inclusion. Browne is looking forward to contributing his new role.
“I want to stay in the league any way I can,” Browne said. “I want to help grow the game for future people that want to come play in this league, and I think having people that have played in the league, having people that played hockey and know the background, it’s going to be a vital piece to the advisory board. I’m happy to do what I can.”
Although Browne made the decision to retire and stood by that, he still felt a twist of emotions going into what would be his final game. He said he was a little choked up when he walked out of his hotel to get on the bus to the arena, knowing that it would be the last time he would do so.
As No. 24 in Buffalo’s baby blues, Browne routinely skated on the second line, and known for his hard forecheck and his physicality against the boards, which belied his small stature.
“I’m just a little guy,” Browne joked. His style of play fit in well with Beauts hockey, though, which goaltender Brianne McLaughlin classified as “annoying” and defenseman and Olympic silver medalist Megan Bozek called “gritty” and “grinding.”
“That’s my style,” Browne said. “I’m not the one to score all the pretty goals. I’m a good player but I know I’m the one who’s going to grind out those pucks, be a pain in the ass to those other players. I did my job today. I think I did pretty damn good.”
While captain Emily Pfalzer told reporters that she had only realized the Beauts had won the Isobel Cup when Boston scored with four seconds left in the game, bringing the score to its final 3-2, Browne said he realized long before that — in between the second and third periods, to be precise.
“I didn’t want to say it, or anything like that,” he said, “But I realized…we could do this. We have played them so hard for the past 40 minutes, why would we let up? I trust every single person in this room to do their job for 20 minutes. And that’s when I knew.”
He was right.
— Troy Parla (@TroyParla) March 20, 2017
Browne frequently puts out YouTube videos on his channel where he addresses things such as being a transgender man and playing in a women’s league. As such, his advice to any future trangender athletes coming up through the ranks Sunday night was simple and powerful.
“Just play your game,” Browne said. “There’s no segregation of athletes; you’re all athletes. Just play your game. I’m really happy that I won a championship in the National Women’s Hockey League. I don’t care that there’s a ‘Women’ there; I’m playing my game on my team, surrounded by my teammates and my friends.
“You have to say, you’re playing a game. You’re playing a game, not a women’s game, not a men’s game. You’re playing a game.”
Browne teared up when he discussed the Cup itself and how much it meant to him to have his chosen name pressed into the metal for all to see.
“That is huge,” said Browne. “The thing that I’m thinking about the most is that ‘Harrison Browne is going to be etched onto that trophy.’ That really does make me very emotional, thinking about that. I’m going to go down in history and I’m really glad that I opened the door for somebody else to get their chosen name on that trophy.”