Women’s hockey is ending 2015 on historic high notes.
The Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League and Les Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League will clash Thursday in the first outdoor women’s professional game.
The Outdoor Women’s Classic presented by Scotiabank is part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities that will culminate on New Year’s day with an Original Six outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the National Football League New England Patriots.
“A new year signifies a new chapter and we look forward to sharing the ice for the first time with two professional women’s team’s on the (NHL’s) biggest stage,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
The women’s game features teams from the first-year, four-team NWHL, which pays its players, and the more-established, five-team, CWHL, which doesn’t offer salaries to its players.
“We are humbled and honored to be part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities at Gillette Stadium,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said. “This wonderful stage for women’s hockey wouldn’t be possible without the tireless dedication of (NHL Commissioner) Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and many others behind the scenes at the National Hockey League.”
Rylan also thanked CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress and her lieutenants who’ve “been part of this collaborative process since the beginning.”
The women’s game in the Patriots’ stadium has been somewhat of a football involving the NWHL, CWHL and USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport in the United States.
USA Hockey said U.S. women’s national team program members, like Pride players Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker, won’t be available for the Women’s Classic because they will be attending the last day of training for the World Championships.
Still, Pride defenseman Blake Bolden, the first African-American to play in the WNHL and CWHL, said the outdoor showcase is another milestone for women’s professional hockey.
“I think it’s really cool that the Boston Bruins and the Canadiens are playing and we’re playing Les Canadiennes,” she told me. “People are starting to respect the women’s game more and more. I just hope that it’s televised on Thursday and the nation can see how much effort we put into this sport that we love to play.”
Shannon Szabados isn’t a member of an NWHL or CWHL team, but she’s a pro hockey player who is ending 2015 in style.
Szabados, a goaltender for the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Columbus Cottonmouths, defeated the Huntsville Havoc, 3-0 in Alabama on Saturday, becoming the first female goalie to record a shutout in a men’s professional match.
Szabodos, an Edmonton native, is in her second season with SPHL. She was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning Winter Olympics women’s hockey teams in 2010 and 2014.