The Doctor is In: Harley joins Beauts for first pro season

by Hannah Bevis

Photo: Justin Berl • Graphics: Jordan Santalucia

Ask Emilie Harley where she thought she would be going into fall of 2021, and she likely wouldn’t have told you playing pro hockey.

“Honestly, I knew about the NWHL, but I just didn’t think that anybody knew who I was as a player,” said Harley. “So I didn’t really think that I would get the opportunity to play, which is why I wasn’t really planning for it.”

Luckily for Beauts fans, Buffalo watched Harley play at Robert Morris University and knew she was the kind of player that they wanted on their roster, and the rest is history. Harley ended up becoming the Beauts first round draft pick in the 2021 NWHL Draft, going second overall. She signed with the team about a week later.

Harley actually mentioned another RMU alum when talking about her decision to sign with Buffalo - netminder Brianne McLaughlin, who was perhaps the MVP of the Beauts team that won the Isobel Cup title back in 2017. Perhaps a good omen for the newest RMU alum who will don Beauts blue? Time will tell, but the coaching and front office staff are optimistic that the Syracuse native will fit right in.

I chose Buffalo because when they reached out and I started talking with (GM) Nate Oliver and (head coach) Rhea Coad, they made me feel really comfortable with them,” said the 6’0” skater. “And Buffalo is close to my hometown of Syracuse, so I really liked the idea that my family could come watch me play.”

Her family was another one of the reasons that Harley ended up in Buffalo. After her college career at RMU ended, she made plans to go to medical school, applying to schools and going through the interview process. But when the Beauts reached out to her about playing, she sat down with her family to talk about the potential change of plans.

“After talking with my dad and my family, we thought that me taking a year off from school would be the better option because at this point in my life, it’s something that I’ll only be able to do right now,” said Harley. “School will always be there, but hockey at this point is a game I still love, it’s something that I want to still be doing, still be competitive at, so it’s now or never.”

Though her med school plan is currently on hold, Harley plans on getting a job in Buffalo in the medical field while she plays with the Beauts. She hopes to work one day in orthopedics, or even sports medicine - something where she can stay involved in the hockey world when her playing days do come to an end.

She’ll also be spending her time exploring the area - though she’s lived just a couple hours a way in Syracuse, this will be her first time really getting to know the 716.

“I’d say I know what I can see from the highway,” joked Harley. “And being in the CHA, playing at the Harborcenter and Keybank, I know that, and I know the big mall, the Walden Galleria, but other than that I’m pretty new.”

“I’m planning on living in Buffalo with Anjelica Diffendal, she was actually my roommate at RMU, so we’re planning on moving together,” she continued. “And I’m excited to experience this city and keep playing.”

Harley’s versatility means she may be playing in a couple of different roles. At RMU, she played as both a forward and defender, which was part of the reason Buffalo signed her.

“I started on forward and I’ve been playing forward pretty much my whole life, and I do really like it because obviously I love to score, but I also really like D. I think I might like D a little bit better, because it gives me the opportunity to see the ice and have a little bit more time with the puck,” said Harley. “I’m a really good distributor - I’m not necessarily a goal-scorer, but I’m quite a good passer. So being able to look up and being on the back end, seeing the whole ice ahead of me, and I can decide if I have room to skate, or if I can make this pass - I really like making those plays.”

For now, she says the coaches have told her she’ll start on defense, but Harley is ready for everything the Beauts might throw at her this season. The challenge is what she’s most looking forward to going into her first pro season.

“I’m excited to test myself out against more established players, players who are much older than me. In college you just basically get the three years above and below you, but going to the pro level there’s just such a greater away of ages and experiences of people,” said Harley. “So to see how I stack up against players that I’ve never seen before, or players who have been playing longer than me, and (I’m excited) to challenge myself to see how good I can possibly get.”

Beauts Bites

Favorite food? 
Chicken and pasta pregame, sushi otherwise.

Go-to hockey celly? 
Fist pump

Superstitious or a little stitious? 
A little stitious - “When I get dressed, I put the left side of my equipment on first”

Team you’re looking forward to playing? 
“The Toronto Six - they’re up and coming, and also my old teammate Leah Marino will be there.”

Dream defense partner? 
Her brother, Thomas Harley