Two Time Isobel Cup Champ Harrison Browne Hangs up the Skates
Two-time Isobel Cup Champion and first transgender athlete in professional hockey, Harrison Browne has announced his retirement from the National Women’s Hockey League on Monday.
Browne, who helped the Buffalo Beauts to a championship in 2017 and then the Metropolitan Riveters to one this past season, released a statement Monday morning announcing his decision to hang up the skates. In the statement, Browne noted that it felt a little bit like “déjà vu and that these past three years have been the some of the best of my life and that is solely due to the fact that the NWHL has existed.”
NWHL Commissioner, Dani Rylan said, “Harrison is a champion for transgender rights and retires as an Isobel Cup Champion hockey player. He is going to be missed on the ice, but he has left quite a legacy from his three years in our league. We want to thank Brownie for everything he has done in the game and wish him the best road ahead.”
Following the season, the 25-year-old returned home, to the Toronto area, to officially begin his next steps in his physical transition. In his statement, Browne thanked Rylan as well as Riveters coach, Chad Wiseman and Beauts coach, Ric Seiling for treating him with respect and allowing him to be himself. He also gave shout out to league communication officer, Chris Botta, for helping to navigate his decision with the press.
Browne’s teammate, Erika Lawler told Corey Masisak of The Athletic, “His excitement around his transition, every time we had a conversation about it, it was contagious. It made me so excited for him.”
Lawler continued, “He has done such wonderful things for the LGBTQ community, for the league, for himself, for people. He just inspires people to be true to who they are. You might not think you are `normal’ but Harry has shown people that it is OK. That is so important.”
She added, “What Harry does, is he is changing the dialogue. He is letting everyone know to, `Got to be you. Go do you because that is what is going to make you great.’ That is what I love him and his message.”
Two Isobel Cups, 27 Points in 51 Games over 3 Years
In three seasons in the NWHL, Browne has played in 51 games while putting up 27 points and capturing two Isobel Cup Championships. Prior to his professional career, he competed collegiately for three seasons at the University of Maine.
Browne began his collegiate career at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania in 2011 before transferring to Maine for his final three years of National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility. Browne signed with the Beauts prior to the inaugural season of the NWHL, on August 29, 2015.
In May of 2016, he re-signed with the Beauts for a second season. Six months later he came out as a transgender man, becoming the first openly transgender athlete in professional American hockey. Due to the anti-doping rules, Browne would have to put off taking the hormones to complete the physical transition.
On March 14, 2017 he announced that he would be retiring following the conclusion of the playoffs, so that he may begin his hormone treatment and transition in private. Five days after announcing his retirement, he became the first openly transgender athlete to win a national championship.
Browne Puts Off Retirement for One More Year
The original plan was for him to play one full season after announcing that he was a transgender man so that he could then retire to complete the transition. After his sister Rachel, as well as a close family friend helped persuade him to put his retirement on hold, he decided on August 7, 2017 that he would play one more season and sign a contract with the Riveters.
After landing in Newark, New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, Browne was able to expand his reach to become a bigger advocate for the LGBTQ community. While he was already a popular player throughout the league, he connected well with the fanbase at the RWJ Barnabas Hockey House. Browne’s jersey became the top selling sweater in the league.
Browne said, “I have had a lot more people in the stands, as well come up to me after games. It was a significant number of people every game. Someone would come up to me with tears in their eyes just how much it meant to see me just be open. To have that happen on a weekly basis was just so amazing.”
He added, “To have someone say, `Seeing you play, makes me feel like I can do anything.’ I definitely got everything I wanted out of this year.”
Retirement Official After Testosterone Treatments
While he decided to put the retirement on hold last summer, this announcement is official as Browne received his first testosterone treatments this past week officially ending his NWHL career.
As he told The Athletic, “The entire process, which will help him look `like a 25-year-old man, instead of like I am 14’ could take a full year.”
He added, “My body is going to look the way I feel it should. To see who I feel on the inside reflecting in the mirror, just for myself to see who I feel I should be seeing. It is, and it isn’t for other people. It is hard to explain. I just want to feel comfortable in my skin.”
Browne’s sister, Rachel added, “It has been a really heartening experience to watch everything that has happened with Harrison and to see how he has grown over the past couple of years. I just hope he can continue advocating for the issues he is most passionate about and sort of incorporating that with his love of hockey.”
While his career in the game may be finished, he is only just beginning as a role model and hero for the community.
Here is the statement Browne released Monday morning regarding his retirement from the NWHL.
Retirement Statement from Harrison Browne
Hi everyone! Brownie here…again. I feel like there’s a little bit of déjà vu happening as I sit here writing this letter to all of you, but here we go! These past 3 years have been some of the best of my life and that is solely due to the fact that the NWHL has existed.
I’ve been in this league from the very beginning and have had the honour of watching it blossom into what it is today – a beacon of hope for any young child dreaming of playing professional hockey. I am proud to stand amongst the trailblazers and pioneers who took the first steps onto that fresh sheet of ice and gave an opportunity for the future to see that you can be paid to do what you love! The NWHL will always hold a special place in my heart. Whether it’s the friendships, the memories, the challenges or the triumphs, I will look back on my time and know that we all made history.
With all that being said…after much thought and deliberation I have decided that the 2017-18 season was my final year playing women’s hockey. I feel that I have made my mark as much as I can in the NWHL and it is time for me to embark on a new journey.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made my time in the NWHL what it was.
I am so proud to have stood as the first transgender athlete in professional hockey and could have never done that without the support of the NWHL, so thank you to everyone who made being my authentic self in hockey a reality. A special shout out to Dani Rylan – our commissioner for never skipping a beat in making sure one of her players could play as himself; to Chris Botta for helping me navigate the press aspect of my decision; and to Ric Seiling for always treating me with respect and advocating for me.
Thank you to the Buffalo Beauts organization for giving me a chance to make my professional hockey dreams come true. I will always cherish my time in Buffalo and as a Beaut. To all my past teammates, coaches, staff and fans, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this Canadian feel at home across the pond.
Thank you to the Metropolitan Riveters organization for welcoming me with open arms. I don’t think there is a team out there with the culture and passion that you instilled in me. Chad Wiseman: thank you for allowing me to be part of this team. You crafted a special group and I am so honored to have been part of it. Team: thank you for always having my back, using the proper pronouns, and making me feel like a Riveter as soon as I stepped foot into that locker room. Staff: thank you for always allowing me to play my best and taking care of the little things that often go unappreciated. You are the glue that keeps a team together.
Thank you to all the fans out there who have shown me support. I can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for me and the LGBTQ community as a whole. You have shown anyone struggling to be themselves that they don’t have to be afraid…that there will always be people out there who will support you and love you no matter what. Thank you for allowing me to feel comfortable in my own skin and cheering me on as Harrison.
And last but certainly not least, thank you to my parents for sacrificing time and money to help me train and put hockey first. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the early morning drives to practice, the world-class equipment and trainers, the road trips to tournaments, and countless other little things that you both have done for me throughout my 16-year career. Thank you, Mom and Dad for getting me to where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without you. And to my sister, Rachel, for always supporting me in all I do.
I could go on for about 300 pages to thank everyone in my life who has shaped me into the man I am today, but I will keep it at that. Farewell, NWHL! My time as a player has come to an end, but I will always be rooting for you and be part of this league any way that I can. Don’t think of this as a good-bye…think of this as a see ya later!
Harrison (Brownie) Browne
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