FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In the true spirit of outdoor hockey, the NWHL’s Boston Pride and CWHL's Montreal Canadiennes kept it fast and fun in a 1–1 tie in the inaugural Outdoor Women’s Classic at Gillette Stadium.
Pride defenseman Blake Bolden tied it up late in the second half on a redirect from Rachel Llanes, after Kim Deschenes scored the opener on assists from Noemie Marin and Katia Clement-Heydra.
Pride goalie Brittany Ott was kept busy by a fast Canadiennes’ attack, making a number of big saves to keep Boston in it before Bolden’s tally, while her counterpart Charline Labonte made her saves look routine.
Putting it aside for the greater good
When asked before the game about perceived friction between the two leagues, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan very quickly responded that it was just that: perception.
Whatever animosity may exist between the two leagues, everything was out aside for two running-time periods for a spirited matchup that begged for so much more than was allotted—especially if you were actually there to see it.
For those who weren’t, the constant stream of tweets and Periscope broadcasts showed that there’s a real thirst for the women’s game to become part of the everyday sports canon. Rylan and CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress were in support of future participation in NHL events, and even more in favor of cultivating what’s best for the interest of the sport.
If that’s finding more ways to come together on future projects (and maybe even one nine-team super league…) and continuing to squash any talk of friction between them, there’s definitely a good and vocal amount of support ready for it.
Complaints about how the game was handled by the NHL were loud, and not off base. Announced officially just four days before the puck actually dropped, there was little time to give the game the spotlight it deserved: the game was not broadcast or streamed, the two fifteen-minute halves were shortened to 28 total minutes when Boston forward Denna Laing tripped into the end boards behind Labonte, eventually being taken off on a stretcher to Massachusetts General Hospital. The final score left a lot to be desired, with no tie-breaking procedure in place.
With all of the issues, real or otherwise, now known and documented, there’s a real chance the NHL can turn this game into something even more special.
It was a day for the players
Coming into the day, there wasn’t a whole lot left for for Julie Chu, the 33-yearold Canadiennes defenseman and U.S. Olympian, to accomplish, but her hockey bucket list can get one item shorter as of this afternoon.
“It was unreal,” she said “And I think that as we were getting ready for the game, we were just a bunch of little kids in the locker room, on the bus ride down from Montreal, and even as we were approaching the ice. I'd like to say we were completely focused ... but there's probably a big kid in us that came out, and it was awesome.”
For Chu and the 35 other players to suit up, there was a payoff for years of hard work to simply have the experience on such a big stage.
“We all talked about how there was this huge build-up and then you walk out there, and no preparation could have prepared us for that moment when your heart sort of just swells, and you see all the lights and the people and the ice, it was a dream come true,” Pride defenseman Marissa Gedman said, still beaming hours after the fact.