A new season

Harrison Browne is called Brownie by his Buffalo Beauts teammates in the National Women's Hockey League.

Last season the 23-year-old forward nicknamed "Brownie" helped his pro hockey team in Buffalo to the championship series, and with the season opener Friday, Buffalo aims for more than just a shot at a title in 2016-17.

It's the first game against the team that beat us in the finals last year. It's going to be a really good test.

--Browne

It will also be a test of how well Browne will be accepted after he has come out publicly.

It is a reset for Buffalo -- but for Browne, it is a historic, new chapter. Browne, a rising star on the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League, is the first openly transgender player in American professional team sports.

I identify as a man. My family is starting to come to grips with it, now it's my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right when I get a point, or see my name on a website.

Browne sent an email to NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan a few weeks ago, which said, in part:

I am interested in coming out in the league as transgender. I will not be legally changing my name or beginning a physical transition until after I conclude my career in the NWHL. I will be playing in the exact condition that I did last season, just under a new name while using male pronouns. I would feel most comfortable being addressed via the media, roster, during games, and any PR as Harrison Browne versus Hailey Browne along with using all male pronouns versus female pronouns.

The Commissioner immediately responded that all would be taken care of, and made it clear that the league office had my unconditional support. That was so nice to hear. Thank you, Dani, and everyone in the league office.

At the end of the day, Harrison is the same player he was last year. We're here to support him. It's really not a big deal when you look at it, we're respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.

--Rylan

Browne, a former junior circuit player from Canada, was recruited by the University of Maine to play Division I hockey on scholarship, and graduated in 2014.

It was at Maine where Browne first identified himself privately to coaches as transgender -- a step that he credits today with improving his game.

On the ice, when I put that equipment on, I'm a hockey player. I don't think about who I'm playing with, I don't think I'm playing with women. I don't think I'm in the wrong body.

Off the ice, I felt more comfortable having my friends call me what I wanted to be called, referring to me with the pronouns that I wanted. If anything, my product on the ice was let loose and I could be myself.

--Browne

The creation of the NWHL in 2014 has delayed any thought of a medical transition for Harrison.

Browne acknowledges he is in "limbo" as a transgender man on a women's team but "you have to be your authentic self to be happy ... hockey makes me extremely happy."

Browne has decided to postpone a medical transition until he's done playing in the NWHL, and he's not changing his legal name right now for visa reasons. Browne says he is "not closing the door" to transitioning to the men's side of the sport one day depending on how his body changes.

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