Women's Hockey Notebook: Toxicity in wake of Winter Classic announcement

Courtesy of ESPNW


1. A lot has happened since the pseudo-announcement of the Winter Classic game between the Boston Pride (NWHL) and Les Canadiennes de Montreal one week ago and not all of it has been positive. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News wrote a column that stirred the pot of divisiveness even more.

What went from a celebration of women’s hockey has turned into finger pointing by all parties involved.

Let’s address some of the emerging storylines:

1A. As far as Campbell’s assertion there was a memorandum of understanding between the CWHL and the NHL for this game. Neither league will offer an official comment on the situation; however, my understanding is the game has been a two league process from the start, but again, no one is willing to say that on the record.

Both the CWHL and NWHL will hopefully be slightly more forthcoming once the official announcement of the game is made. Cross your fingers it actually happens this week.

1B. There is a rumor the CWHL is going to pull out of the game all together and this is not true. Plus, Brenda Andress is a smart woman. Acting rashly would only look bad for her league.

1C. USA Hockey is not budging on their stance to let the eight women from the NWHL attend the game. While I am whole-heartedly disappointed by the decision and sincerely hope USA Hockey changes its mind, I (begrudgingly) understand where they’re coming from. This camp has been planned months in advance and adding the women’s game to the roster of WC events came late.

What is being left out of most narratives is that this was the NHL’s decision to approach the leagues about playing in the game. The women’s game was not in the plans when the Winter Classic in Boston was initially announced. It wasn’t until recently the league approached the two about playing at some point during the hectic schedule of events in Foxborough. The ice at all Winter Classics is not only used for the Alumni and NHL games. There are a ton of other activities happening in order to maximize value (and contributing to crappy ice conditions…)

1D. Still holding out hope USA Hockey finds a work around to #LetThemPlay. If they don't, it'll be interesting to see if any of the women take it upon themselves to leave the camp and go to the game. USA Hockey made an idle threat in Campbell's article:

"The USA Hockey source said the players themselves are free to skip the camp to play in the game if they choose to, but it would put their chances of playing in the World Championship, scheduled for March 28 to April 4 in Kamloops, “in serious jeopardy.” 

Part of me wants to see the likes of Gigi Marvin, Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, etc. force USA Hockey's hand. Would the organization seriously hold those women off the team for a tournament IN CANADA?!

Kate Cimini gives additional perspective on the issue in her column, "NWHL faces USA Hockey dilemma For Winter Classic."

1E. The CWHL will not have ANY players that will miss the outdoor game due to the USA Hockey commitment. Defenseman Julie Chu of Les Canadiennes was not included on the roster released by Team USA.

1F. Seeing a lot of  "USA Hockey wouldn't do this to the men's national team..." arguments in the ether and it is kind of silly. All of the men's national teams dictate their schedules around the NHL. The only exception is the Olympics and that's a huuuuuge negotiation that includes the Players Association.

1G. As awesome as the announcement was this past week has been toxic for both the CWHL and NWHL. Both leagues are not coming off in a positive light by leaking details about each other to various outlets. This had led to a ramped up war between the ardent single-league fan bases and it’s getting ugly.

How is one league, and its respective fans, trying to destroy the other good for the growth of women’s hockey overall?

Competition in the marketplace is one thing, but seriously stunting the growth of your sport through a public relations war is petty. This is something we'd expect from the NHL owners and general mangers.

Remember, the NHL holds all the cards here. Again, we'd love for the leagues to make it on their own but they are going to need the NHL's investment to make a viable professional league. Why are the NWHL and CWHL giving the NHL another reason (in their mind) not to invest in women's hockey?

2. I am literally dusting off my winter coats out here in California (it was nearly 80 degrees one day this week) for my upcoming trip to Boston. This time next week, I’ll be in Beantown for my first live CWHL and NWHL games. Here’s the plan:

Saturday – Toronto Furies at Boston Blades, 7:00pm ET at New England Sports Complex in Marlborough, MA

Sunday – Buffalo Beauts at Boston Pride, 3:00pm ET at Harvard Bright-Landry Center in Boston, MA

I will be hanging with Kate Cimini of Today’s Slapshot, Sarah Connors of Stanley Cup of Chowder and more! We’d love to meet the community. I’ll even sign copies of Wysh’s book for you as Greg Wyshynski.

If you’re in the area - show up! Remember what Brian Burke said, if you support women’s hockey don’t just say so, VOTE WITH YOUR FEET! I’m coming from across the country to do so, so what’s your hold up?

3. Congrats to NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan for being a finalist in espnW's Woman of the Year. Rylan and her 24 counterparts, called the IMPACT25, were given the Marvel treatment and turned into superheroes.


Courtesy of ESPNW
Courtesy of ESPNW

NWHL commish by day. Crime fighting vigilante named Ice Queen by night.

The winner of the award will be announced on February 28 in New York.

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Recapping the weekend that was in the NWHL/CWHL from the goaltending perspective. [In Goal Mag]

Enormous potential for NWHL/CWHL. [Today's Slapshot]

Eight players Calgary Inferno players named to CWHL All-Star roster. [Matchsticks & Gasoline]

First-Ever NWHL All-Stars Selected. [The Victory Press]

Why this hockey player wants to sign women up (and pay them). [Inc.]

Meet what may be Minnesota's next professional sports franchise: the Whitecaps. [Minn Post]

The Boston Blades: Work In Progress. [Watch This Hockey]

Women’s hockey league continues to build awareness. [The Buffalo News]

Don’t Snow the Goalie Podcast: Suspensions, sponsors, stars. [Today's Slapshot]

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Montreal Les Canadiennes (7-1-0) @ Brampton Thunder (8-4-0) – 6:30pm ET ($ stream $)

Calgary Inferno (10-2-0) @ Boston Blades (1-11-0) – 8:10pm ET


Exhibition Game: Boston Pride @ Minnesota Whitecaps – 7:00pm ET (TV: NESN; Free stream)



Calgary Inferno @ Boston Blades – 10:30am ET ($ stream $)

Montreal Les Canadiennes @ Brampton Thunder – 1:30pm ET


Exhibition Game: Boston Pride @ Minnesota Whitecaps – 2:00pm ET

Connecticut Whale (7-0-0) @ New York Riveters (2-5-0) – 6:30pm ET (stream)

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.