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Q and A with Shannon Doyle Ahead of Women’s Classic

Shannon Doyle, one of the Connecticut Whale players filling out the roster for the NWHL’s Boston Pride in Thursday’s Winter Classic women’s hockey showcase against Les Canadiennes of the CWHL spoke with Today’s Slapshot Monday afternoon on what it would be like joining the Pride for a day or two, playing against her Team Canada favorites and the future of the women’s professional game.

It must feel terrific to be picked for this team. When the NWHL Commissioner is calling around, asking for players with connections to the New England / Boston area and you get picked…

Oh, definitely. It’s always amazing to get to play in any special game, but to get to play outside at Gillette and also to get to do so with such an amazing team is just…I don’t know what else you could ask for, as a hockey player. This is one of those games I’ll remember for (the rest of) my life.

You’ll be joining Kate Buesser and Kaleigh Fratkin from the Whale on the Pride for the match-up against Les Canadiennes. What are you going to bring to the team? How do you think you can contribute?

There’s not much improving the Pride, especially after our loss (Sunday) night to them. I think everybody kind of counted them out since they were missing a big core of their players to the camp. I think it was one of those games where girls are on a team with big-name players and those players can’t come out to the game for whatever reason, those who do come have a chance to step up. They’re all very talented and I think Sunday they took it to us a little bit. [Laughs] Obviously we missed Shi (Darkangelo) and (Kelli) Stack.

Looking at the Pride and thinking about playing them: I’m someone who is very consistent in her play. Gillette’s a big stage to play on and they have experienced defensemen on their back end with Bolden and Gedman out there but I’m definitely excited to be one of those players who gets to contribute. I just want to be someone consistent from them who won’t cause turnovers and things like this.

Boston plays a slightly different system without their National Team players – not worse, but different. They’re a bit more physical, go real hard in the corners and are definitely smaller. They really rely on that Rachel Llanes attitude of “I’m going to come out and I’m going to kill you.”

[Laughs] I have a hard time talking about myself as a player but that style of play is kind of what I like to be known for and I have worked hard to develop.

I’m not the biggest person so I have worked hard over the years to learn how to use my body well in the corners, in front of the net, things like that. I’m all about that: winning the battles in the corners, moving the puck, that kind of thing. When you’re on a team that’s very, very skilled it’s all about puck handling…it’s a very different kind of play that you get into and a different mental game as well.

When you’re on a team that’s all about blocking shots and grinding it out in the corners, bumping those people off the puck, doing the back check, all those things that aren’t exactly the prettiest, they are effective. The emotional intensity those can bring to a team is above and beyond any toe drag, in my opinion. I love those things. I’m all about that, play with them and play that style of hockey to win a game.

I bet it’s going to be really nice to be on the same side as Llanes for once, and not have to face her down.

[Laughs] She’s always a beaut to play against. I don’t know if I’d trade Llanes for Poulin, I don’t know. I don’t know!

Speaking of, you’re going to be facing a bunch of Team Canada players. As a Canadian, does that make you want to throw the game? For the love of your country, obviously.

I know, I know! Oh, these girls, I know them all so well. [Laughs]

Who do you think on Les Canadiennes will be your biggest challenge?

Well, Poulin is definitely one of those players where, if you fail to mention her, you just don’t know who she is for some strange reason. She’s definitely going to be one of those players who, if you give her even a second, she’ll make you pay for it. They have such a deep roster. They have Rougeau, they have Poulin, they have Ouellette, they have Chu, they have so many good players out there. I think we’ll have to focus on the team as a unit and not just one or two players. Our challenge will be coming together as a team and attacking them as a unit since we’re playing together for this one game.

Have you ever been to a Montreal Canadiennes game, growing up in Canada? Also, how do you feel about the name change?

No, I haven’t been to any of their games. When I was in high school the CWHL was very, very new. It didn’t have much traction when I was younger although now Brampton and Calgary are the teams to see in that league.

I like where their name went. It obviously links them strongly with the Montreal Canadiens and it also brings them back to their roots because that team is very French-dominant, with bilingual players. It’s not a bunch of Toronto or Calgary players; it is all a group that grew up in Montreal or the surrounding area on that team, which is fantastic. I really do love that they went back to the French usage and took away from the English side of things because that’s not what the team is about in my opinion.

The narrative for this has been that it’s about growing the women’s game and the future of the women’s game. But we did find out that it seems the game isn’t going to be broadcast live. Do you see that as detrimental?

It is a little bit disheartening in the fact that we have this amazing opportunity to have this venue for our use. It would be great if it was on television, or at least livestreamed like our games currently – the Pride obviously has that deal with NESN. Even the livestreaming is fantastic; thousands of people watch that online every time. It would be huge if that was an opportunity. I believe if there was the slightest chance to have that I know Dani (Rylan, NWHL Commissioner) would have jumped on that because she does such a fantastic job with promoting our league and the women’s game in general. I think that it was more out of her control and out of the league’s control to not have it broadcast.

We’ve come so far: we have this huge league; we’re getting coverage of our sport. Our team has sold out (our rink) three times in a row, we have this backing and now this game at the Winter Classic…but we’re not broadcasting it. And there are no ticket sales for our game; you have to buy a pass to the Alumni Game to get into our game. It’s one of those things where it kind of brings you back to reality of where the women’s game is in some people’s minds and where it needs to go.

Where do you see the future of women’s hockey heading?

I see it heading to where the WNBA is, where everything is broadcast live and there’s packages, amazing venues for all the teams, huge facilities and most importantly, it is their job. I think the NWHL can go to the same place, where this is our job.

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