“I think the Women’s Classic is something we’ve been preparing for forever,” said Boston Pride player Denna Laing after her last practice the night before the first Women’s Classic, which will be played between the Pride of the NWHL and Les Canadiennes of the CWHL.
“We’ve been practicing, we’ve been playing to play at the top level on the top stage. Some people keep saying it’s unfortunate that the Olympians aren’t here and I do agree, but I think we’re going to do a great job and I think that we have a solid team even without them.”
While the Pride may be forced to supplement its numbers with players from other NWHL teams, its players are still looking to win their game against Les Canadiennes. But that battle may come in second to the larger war they are waging. They are fighting to grow women’s hockey on the national level.
“I think it’s a huge step for our sport; there is no way around that,” said Laing. “It came together pretty quickly but we’re doing our best to try and promote it.”
Laing and her teammates are tweeting about the game and giving interviews left and right. Even their family members are stepping in and buying tickets for friends, family and acquaintances, too.
“I think tomorrow’s going to make a huge difference to whether the NHL continues to do this year after year,” said Laing, thoughtful. “It’s a test run, for sure. I hope that we can garner enough support to get people out there to convince the NHL it’s a good idea.
“This year I think nobody could have predicted where this (league) has gone, whether it be getting NESN to cover our games or Dunkin’ Donuts to sponsor us. The first Women’s Classic? Are you kidding?” Laing asked, grinning wide for a second. “No one ever thought that could be possible. The league has done such a good job getting us out there. I hope this is a stepping stone and that it just keeps going.”
Laing and her Women’s Classic teammates are looking at this as a networking opportunity, so to speak, a way to get their product noticed and their leagues asked back year after year to this event. And next year, they hope, it will be streamed and broadcast.
“I know it’s not a full game when we thought it was a full game, it’s not broadcast, it’s not streamed,” said Whale defenseman Shannon Doyle, scrunching up her face for a second, thinking about the the two fifteen-minute periods. Doyle is one of the players who will be filling in for a National Team player on the same stage as the NHL Winter Classic game at Gillette Stadium, to be played on New Year’s Day. The players may not be thrilled their exhibition won’t be broadcast and won’t be a full length competition but they’re not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“We’re really, really excited because…look at how women’s hockey is growing by leaps and bounds,” Doyle said, enthused about the possibilities.
“A lot of us look at it as the opportunities that are created for us and making the most of them every time we get that chance,” Doyle continued. “Right now we want to make the most of anything we get out there: doesn’t matter if it’s two fifteen-minute periods running time…it doesn’t matter to us. It’s being able to play on that stage and show the people that we’ll be there, which, I know there will be a lot of NHL faculty and staff there. It’s a good product; they’re going to love it.
“It’s their loss they don’t get to see the full thing,” Doyle said jokingly, “But I think it’s a great product. If we do a very good job with the time we’ve been given then they’re going to want us back next year, and that’s the goal: to have it for next year and the year after. Not just for us, this year. We’re never thinking about just this moment, we’re always thinking about the future.”