🏒 Runnin’ through the six with my woes
No way! Give me the deets: Almost a year after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) folded, professional women’s hockey is set to return to Canada. The Toronto-based team will become the NWHL’s sixth franchise and the first outside of the US.
- The ownership group will be led by former Harvard captain Johanna Boynton, with former Brown coach Margaret “Digit” Murphy as its president. Fancy, fancy. Five players have also already been named to the squad.
Cool. So this is good news?: Anytime women’s sports grows, it’s great news! However, this situation is complicated. Last year, after the CWHL folded, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) was formed.
- The PWHPA is made up of over 200 of the world’s top hockey players who have banded together and agreed that they would not play pro hockey in North America until a single, viable, cross-border league was formed.
The NWHL is cross-border, so problem solved, right?: Not really. The PWHPA remains firm that the NWHL is not the solution they’re looking for. The PWHPA has made it pretty clear that they want support from the NHL (similar to the NBA and the WNBA), but the NHL has said it will be difficult for them to fully step in while the NWHL is still around.
- So yes, while this expansion is a step forward, it’s also another roadblock in creating the pro league women’s hockey truly needs and deserves.
🏒 Ballroom Blitz
The GIST: Yes. We’re all distraught that the NHL playoffs didn’t start yesterday. So we thought we’d help you get your fix and give you a brief history — nay, herstory — lesson on the first kickass women to have played in the NHL and in other men’s professional hockey leagues.
The first woman to play in the NHL: We’re taking it all the way back to a simpler time when Wayne’s World topped the movies charts (party time, excellent!) and Billy Ray Cyrus had an achy breaky heart. In 1992, Canadian goaltender Manon Rhéaume (pronounced RAY-OHM) became not only the first woman to try out for an NHL team, but also to play in an NHL game, ’tending for the Tampa Bay Lightning in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues.
- No woman has played in the NHL since, partly because the women’s game has since gained more international support (women’s hockey became an Olympic sport only in 1998...seriously) and now has pro leagues of its own.
The first position players to play men’s professional hockey: From 2002 to 2004, Canadian forward Hayley Wickenheiser — the woman, the myth, the legend — became the first female position player (aka non-goalie) to play men’s pro hockey, suiting up for HC Salamat in Finland. And, in classic Wick fashion, she killed it. In 2003, she became the first woman to score in a men’s professional league game, eventually recording two goals and 10 assists in 23 games that season.
- Meanwhile, in 2004, American defender and trailblazer Angela Ruggiero became the first female position player to play men’s pro hockey in North America, taking the ice for the Tulsa Oilers in the now defunct Central Hockey League. Fun fact: she played alongside her brother Bill, and the pair are in the Hockey Hall of Fame as the first brother-sister duo to play pro hockey together. Cute!
🏒 What could have been
The GIST: Yesterday would have been the first day of the NHL playoffs. *insert sad face with a single tear emoji* So, in the absence of a hockey postseason, here’s what we think would’ve happened — based on how we left things — if the season hadn’t been put on hold.
Eastern Conference: After inevitably netting enough goals to move him up to 6th place on the all-time career goals list, Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals would’ve faced the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. The Caps would’ve taken the series 4-1, with the only loss coming when the ’Canes were forced to use their unstoppable emergency back-up goalie David Ayres again.
- The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins would renew their Battle of Pennsylvania rivalry, and this series would’ve gone to seven excruciating games, with Sidney Crosby scoring the Game 7 series-winning goal in overtime to complete a Gordie Howe hat trick after fighting Gritty in the second period.
Western Conference: The Battle of Alberta would have taken center stage. The Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames had a few tumultuous meetings in the regular season, and the first round of the playoffs wouldn’t have been any different. The Flames would win the series in five games, but not before both teams lost at least seven players to suspensions.
- And, of course, the St. Louis Blues would pump their victory song “Gloria” through the loudspeakers of their home arena with such annoying persistence that their opponents, the Nashville Predators, would elect to forfeit the entire series after Game 2 and head back home to the real Music City.
The Stanley Cup: Oh, you’re wondering who would win the Cup, eh? The spirit of Laura Branigan is just too powerful. The St. Louis Blues are your back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
What’s actually happening in the NHL...: A third Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for COVID-19, though he’s said to be doing well in self-isolation. And in some scary non-COVID-19 health news, Oilers’ prospect Colby Cave is in a medically induced coma as he recovers from emergency surgery after a cyst caused a brain bleed. Wishing our very best to these guys.
- Meanwhile, the league is still monitoring the pandemic situation and is considering North Dakota as a potential location to finish out the season. Interesting.
🏒 Mad world, mad world
The GIST: If it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, we’d be busy enjoying the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship (WWHC) that was set to take place in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, from March 31st to April 10th. And because we miss the good ol’ hockey game so freaking much, we’re highlighting our top three women’s international hockey moments.
3. Team Canada and Team USA are far and away the two powerhouses in women’s hockey — they’ve placed first or second at the WWHC every year since the tournament started in 1990...until last year. The 2019 WWHC saw the Finnish take home the silver after upsetting Canada 4–2 in the semifinals and just losing to the US in overtime (OT) in a v. controversial final.
- And as much as we live for the classic Canada-USA rivalry, we loved seeing a fresh face in the finals. It demonstrated just how much the women’s game is improving and how much it’s growing globally, and it reminded us that in sports, you can’t take anything for granted.
2. There’s nothing like the rivalry between Team Canada and Team USA at the Olympics, and the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic gold medal game was no exception. After Canada had owned the podium four Olympics in a row (from 2002 to 2014), the US was out for revenge.
- Midway through the third period, Canada was up 2–1 and the gold medal was within reach...until the Lamoureux twins (you know, the sister act we talked about last week) kicked it into high gear: Monique scored to force the game into overtime (which settled nothing) and Jocelyne netted the winner in the shootout to give the US their first Olympic gold medal in 20 years (much to the chagrin of Canadian ice dancing star, Scott Moir).
1. If the 2018 Olympic gold medal game was drama, the 2014 Olympic gold medal game in Sochi was DAH-RA-MA. Early in the third period, the US was up 2–0 over the Canadians and seemed to have a stranglehold on the game — that is, until Canada’s Brianne Jenner scored to make it 2–1 with three minutes left.
- With just over a minute left in the game, Canada pulled their goalie in order to have an extra attacker on the ice to try to tie it up. And that decision was almost a costly one for Canada, as the Americans had a shot on the empty net but the puck just hit the post. Talk about anxiety-inducing.
- Canada then sped back up the ice, and you guessed it, SCORED with moments to spare thanks to Marie-Philip Poulin (pronounced POO-LEHN). The game then went into overtime, where, on a power play (that, TBH could have been a penalty shot), Poulin scored again, ending what is arguably the greatest women’s hockey game ever played.
🏒 Guide to Hockey
How is it organized?
The most popular hockey league in the world is the National Hockey League, aka the NHL or “chel” if you’re a true “hockey beauty” *rolls eyes*. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences and are then further divided by divisions. There are 31 teams (until Seattle’s expansion team begins its franchise in 2021-22) and 82 regular-season games.
At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division and then the remaining top two teams in the conference, regardless of the division (this playoff format is v. controversial because sometimes one division is stronger than the other, meaning that two of the best teams in the conference may have to play each other in the first round) will move on to the playoffs. This means each division will have a minimum of three and a maximum of five teams in the playoffs. The playoffs consist of four rounds of best-of-seven series (teams must win four of the possible seven games to advance) with a chance to win the coveted Stanley Cup aka “Lord Stanley” in the end.
The best of the best
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champions are the St. Louis Blues! It was a BFD because it was the Blues’ first EVER Stanley Cup in the 52-year history of the franchise. The team was led to glory by rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, who somehow looked calm, cool and collected between the pipes despite it being his first season in the NHL. *tips hat* Other top players in the league include Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers).
All my ladies, let me hear y’all!
The women’s hockey scene has gotten mighty messy as of late. At the end of its 2019 season, the (CWHL) (one of two professional women’s hockey leagues based in North America at the time) unexpectedly folded due to unsustainable business operations. It consisted of six teams, four based in Canada, one in the U.S., and one in China, and left a lot of female hockey stars without a team.
Then there’s the (NWHL) which now has six teams with five in the US and a new expansion team in Toronto, Canada. However, in both the former CWHL and the current NWHL, players get paid next to nothing compared to their male counterparts. Most of the NWHL’s players juggle full-time work and pro-hockey as the league’s average salary is just $15k. To put this in perspective, the lowest amount an NHL player can get paid is $700k. Can you say #WageGap?
So in 2019, more than 200 of the world’s best female hockey players joined forces to fight for change through the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association (PHWPA). They are (refusing to play) in the current professional hockey league structure with the goal of creating a viable cross-border league with better working conditions (is health insurance so much to ask?) and better pay. That means no Amanda Kessel, no Hilary Knight and no Breanna Decker to watch this season. Welp.
But, you can watch them on their this year. It’s a short-term band aid but will hopefully help create a long-term solution. For now, the conversation seems to be at a standstill and the future of women’s hockey hangs in a kind of uncomfortable limbo. Subscribe to The GIST and follow our social channels to stay up-to-date on more of this news.
- The Stanley Cup was created in 1893. It was named for Lord Stanley of Preston, a Canadian Governor General.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins (that’s Sidney Crosby’s team!) used to have a real-life penguin mascot. Pete, as he was affectionately called, was introduced in 1968 before a game against the Pennsylvania state rival Philadelphia Flyers.
- There are more than 2,200 names engraved on the Stanley Cup (FYI, each team has their names engraved after winning), but only 12 women have made the cut, either as owners or team executives. Let’s get to adding to this tally, shall we?
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