Women’s hockey has gotten a big boost over the past season with the birth of the NWHL and the continued success of the CWHL, but the women’s game is set to get big exposure with a matchup on one of hockey's biggest stages.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NWHL and CWHL will play an interleague contest as part of the events leading up to the Winter Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
“As part of the outdoor game festivities in Boston between the Canadiens and Bruins, two women’s team will play the day before outdoors,” Friedman said Saturday. “Les Canadiennes from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League — the two leagues will each have a representative playing head-to-head before the alumni game.”
NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan has said a number of times she hoped for the two leagues — the NWHL and CWHL — to coexist, but this is something few would have expected.
The game should be a fantastic showcase for both the CWHL and NWHL, too, as the building will be filled for an alumni game pitting legendary players from the Bruins and Canadiens against each other. Les Canadiennes are second in the CWHL with seven wins in eight games and are only four points back of the league lead. Similarly, Boston ranks second in the NWHL with six points in six games.
There will be a number of major women’s hockey stars in the game, too. Les Canadiennes have three of the top four scorers in the CWHL, including the league's leading scorer in Marie-Philip Poulin. In six games, she has nine goals and 18 points. Caroline Ouellette’s six goals and 14 points rank third in the CWHL and Ann-Sophie Bettez’s seven goals and 13 points rank fourth.
The Pride boast two of the best players in all of women’s hockey in Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight, who rank first and third in NWHL scoring respectively. Decker leads the league with five goals and 10 points, while Knight’s four goals and nine points have her one off the scoring lead. Both have played six games.
Decker and Knight are both familiar with the CWHL, as both played for the Boston Blades in 2014-15. In 16 games, Decker scored 16 goals and 32 points to finish second in scoring, while Knight notched eight goals and 22 points in 13 outings to finish sixth.
Update: According to Kate Cimini of TodaysSlapshot.com, Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and all members of Team USA's women's hockey team will not be attending the Winter Classic game due to a commitment with the national team.