Monday morning the NHL finally announced the Winter Classic game between the NWHL and the CWHL, which was leaked weeks earlier on Hockey Night in Canada by Elliotte Friedman.
As part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities, the NHL will host the first-ever Outdoor Women’s Classic presented by Scotiabank, an abbreviated exhibition game on the outdoor rink at Gillette Stadium.
The outdoor game will feature the Boston Pride of the newly-formed NWHL versus Les Canadiennes of the CWHL.
As fans already knew due to Friedman’s announcement, perhaps the most interesting aspect is the game’s sponsor. The NHL lists the game as the “Outdoor Women’s Classic presented by Scotiabank”, a prominent CWHL sponsor. The NWHL recently announced a multiyear sponsorship deal with Dunkin’ Donuts and continue to look for others. This is an opportunity for both leagues to gain exposure for their brands and players, while continuing to develop their respective fan bases outside of traditional areas.
The game will be featured on the NHL Network and NHL Live, according to the press release. The NHL itself will promote the game on social media, including through the use of the hashtag #WinterClassic, ensuring that the game will be cross-promoted to fans who intend to tune in for the men’s game.
Patrick Burke, Director of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, and one of the key parties involved in putting this game together told Today’s Slapshot, “The NHL is excited to support women’s hockey by hosting a women’s game on one of our biggest stages. We look forward to continuing to find ways to grow women’s hockey at all levels.” He credited Susan Cohig, the Vice President of Business Affairs and Integrated Marketing as being the driving forces behind the inter-league competition.
Although this is not necessarily as big a spectacle as it could have been with the National Team players on the Pride attending USA Hockey’s winter camp, their absence gives practice players and roster players from the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters an opportunity to represent their league in this event. While cobbling together a roster might not seem to give the NWHL’s team the greatest chance on paper, as Boston proved Sunday night against the then-undefeated Whale, even with out the National Team players the Pride still has plenty of depth at its core.
Denna Laing, Casey Pickett, Cherie Hendrickson and Meagan Mangene will play in the Winter Classic, but the league had to look outside the team as well. To source replacements the NWHL selected players from the Riveters and Whale who had New England – and specifically Boston – ties.
The league picked out four players: Shannon Doyle, Kate Buesser and Kaleigh Fratkin of the Connecticut Whale and Bray Ketchum and Meghan Fardelmann of the New York Riveters. Fardelmann graduated from Boston College. Fratkin came to the Whale from Boston University, as did Doyle. Buesser, currently a medical student at Yale, completed her undergraduate at Harvard and is the only non-Pride practice player who will take the ice at the Winter Classic showcase. Ketchum is a Yale graduate and hails originally from the Fairfield County area in Connecticut.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Fratkin said. “Obviously the Winter Classic is a huge draw on the men’s side and I think it’s great publicity for women’s hockey in general. I think it’s such a great opportunity. It shows the steps that it’s taken in just a couple of months.”
“I think it’s a really great opportunity to jump out there with the team we were just on-ice with (Sunday night),” said Buesser. “Just as a hockey player you know the first of each year is a really special event for the NHL and it’s amazing the women are hoping to have a continued part (in this). This is going to be a great event and hoping it will continue for years to come.”
“We are humbled and honored to be part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities at Gillette Stadium. This wonderful stage for women’s hockey wouldn’t be possible without the tireless dedication of Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and many others behind the scenes at the National Hockey League,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan.
“I’d also like to personally thank Brenda Andress and her team at the Canadian’s Women’s Hockey League,” Rylan said. “They have been part of this collaborative process since the beginning and their efforts are appreciated.”
Roster and ticket information can be found here.
UPDATE: Jen Neale of Puck Daddy reported Monday afternoon that the game will not be broadcast on television and that streaming is therefore unlikely. As such, it seems fans will be able to see a recap or highlights of the game at a later date, or check ins of the game shown during the recap scheduled for the NHL Network, but not an entire live match. This certainly mitigates the impact and of the game and will hamper the women’s league’s ability to market their brands and their sport.
Correction: An earlier version of this article identified Shannon Doyle as being a Boston College graduate when she is, in fact, a Boston University graduate.