Just getting started: Tennis, equality icon Billie Jean King sets stage for PWHL 'trailblazers'
Billie Jean King: tennis icon, women's rights advocate … hockey ambassador?
While the 12-time Grand Slam champion admits she does not know much about the sport of hockey yet, there really was no other option to kick off the Professional Women's Hockey League draft on Monday at CBC headquarters in Toronto than King, whose name has long been synonymous with gender equality in sports.
"A trailblazer is one that blazes a trail to lead and include others, the first person to do something or go somewhere who shows that it is also possible for other people," said King before calling out Taylor Heise's name as Minnesota's first-overall pick of the inaugural draft. "Trailblazing is bold, it's brave, and it can be very scary and lonely.
"But it's worth it. It's really worth it. It's worth it for each one of us who have fought so hard for this day. And it's worth it for the generations of girls and women who will come behind us."
WATCH | Minnesota's Heise taken No. 1 in PWHL draft:
The moment was not lost on the 23-year-old Heise, who now embarks on her professional hockey journey after captaining the University of Minnesota last season.
King was the first to inspire change in the tennis realm, lobbying for equal pay between the men's and women's tournaments at the U.S. Open, leading to the staple New York event becoming the first major tennis tournament to offer equal prize money to both sexes in 1973 at $25,000 US.
50 years later, that change still reverberates through the tennis landscape, with men's champion Novak Djokovic and women's champion Coco Gauff walking away with identical $3-million winnings following their respective victories at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City last week.