Women’s Hockey Notebook: Outdoor aftermath; Blades future; Bruins donate $200K to Denna Laing

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[Ed. Note: Last week I ditched the full post following the press release of Denna Laing’s family. This catches up on everything over the past two weeks.]

LINE RUSHES

1. Winter Classic aftermath.

It has been around two weeks since the Women’s Outdoor Classic, and literally everyone, including those who don’t cover women’s hockey on a regular basis, gave their opinions of the event.

Here is what I take away from the event: it happened. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)

It didn’t have to happen, but it did. With all the problems and controversy surrounding the event, the NHL, or either of the women’s leagues, could have pulled the plug on the event at any minute, and they didn’t. Why? Because it meant so much to the players.

Not the fans. Not the media. Not the public relations for all three leagues.

It was giving the women the opportunity to play on NHL ice in a huge event. The blog Eyes on the Prize captured it perfectly in their headline, “The best Christmas gift ever,” a quote from Les Canadiennes player Katia Clement-Heydra who participated in the game.

Here’s some of the photos from the event from the event featuring the players:

[<a href=”https://storify.com/wyshynski/cwhl-nwhl-players-at-winter-classic” target=”_blank”>View the story “CWHL, NWHL players at Winter Classic” on Storify</a>]

1A. BUUUUUT I can’t stick my head in the sand either. 

Do I think this was a complete failure by the NHL? No. Do I think it was a targeted effort to make the women’s leagues look bad? No. I love a good conspiracy theory but that’s one I can’t get behind.

As we’ve seen with the NHL through the involvement in the affairs of their own players (cough cough John Scott cough), the brass at the very, very top don’t think things all the way through. After speaking with Susan Cohig and Patrick Burke, I truly believe THEY did all they could within their scope of practice. 

There is a still a level of management above Cohig that has the power override any decision within the league: Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and Colin Campbell. (John Collins was a part of the executive suite, but has since left the league.) If those three weren’t completely tone deaf to the changing technology and the growing trends within their own fanbase, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Logistical f-ups are going to happen. It’s the nature of any event. Where I place a significant amount of scrutiny is on the media operations of the NHL. From the league press release announcing the women’s game: “NHL Network™ and NHL.com will provide live, extensive coverage of Winter Classic festivities. NHL Social™ will have exclusive coverage on all social platforms, including the use of the hashtag #WinterClassic.”

(Forget the NHL Network. Hockey is my job and my cable company doesn’t cover the channel. Even then, how many subscribers to the channel are casual fans? Not many.)

Failure to deliver on promises is going to shine brighter than any positive coming out of the game.

The full force of the NHL social media machine was silent during the women’s game. This speaks to the NHL’s lack of understanding of where their core fan base is at; which is on the computer, phones and tablets. The women’s leagues understood that and were doing all they could to provide fans insight into their game, but they were doing this for people already invested in their leagues. The NHL completely dropped the ball exposing the women’s game to their 4.3-million followers on Twitter alone, a majority of whom probably haven’t seen a women’s hockey game outside of the Olympics, if then. 

Dwelling on the failings of this event will get nothing done. Hopefully the NHL, NWHL, and CWHL have all learned a great deal about working together to put on this event. It’s on them to bring something new and different to fans in the future. What we can only hope for is having the right personnel in place, at least at the league level, to make sure the NHL’s involvement isn’t half-hearted going forward.

2. Boston Blades announcement.

Boston Blades (CWHL) general manager Krista Patronick released a statement:

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Patronick was tasked with an incredibly difficult job. She took over running the team after the departure of Digit Murphy and Aronda Kirby and experienced a mass exodus of women’s national team players to the NWHL. One of the most common complaints among the players that left the CWHL was the lack of support for the Boston team, currently the only US-based team in the CWHL.

I went to Boston in December to take in a Boston Blades and Toronto Furies game and the experience was a stark reality of what could continue to be an uphill climb for the Blades.

The arena where the game was held was at least 45 minutes outside of Boston. It’s a giant complex with multiple rinks. Walking in there was one table of Blades merchandise and staffers, but that was about it. The ice surface where the women played was in the back of the rink with limited seating for fans, maybe 5 long benches. The CWHL was bumped out of the main rinks due to high school hockey and a special game between to local schools. Fans drifted in and out of the arena to watch the game; many of which came from the high school games in the rink. I have no idea how they collect gate receipts.  

I have to hand it to the people who work and volunteer for the Blades franchise; those who are paid are paid in Canadian dollars. You can tell the love they have for this team and the women who are a part of it. Yet, I could understand what the former Blades players meant when they said they felt like outsiders in their own league.

Patronick was nothing short of welcoming and positive. She had a HUGE learning curve in her first year as GM. There is no doubt she will attempt to make changes to make the Blades comeptitive again and work to gain marketshare. She says as much in Kate Cimini’s Q&A with her on Today’s Slapshot.  

The question is how much support is she going to get from the CWHL, who was close to folding the franchise after the departure of the Blades players. We have Krista’s commitment. Where does the league stand? I reached out late to the CWHL and hope to have a comment by next week.

3. Denna Laing updates.

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There have been a ton of positive messages from Denna’s camp. Remember, you can still donate and get updates at DennaLaing.org. You can also follow Denna’s twitter account. She’s not shying away from posting videos and photos as she goes through her rehabilitation.  

Denna’s Pride teammates created #Cards4Denna for this weekend’s game as a way for fans to send their support.

Fans attending tomorrow’s Boston Pride game can purchase shirseys:

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3A. One thing we didn’t address on Puck Daddy was the news from the New York Post regarding an (alleged) impending lawsuit from Laing. This was intentional on our part. The NYP has a record of being fast and loose on sources, especially anonymous ones. We are waiting for additional corroboration before reporting it as fact. 

An omission from the NYP article, whether intentional or not, is the multiple reports of Denna stepping on a stick before colliding into the boards. The article only mentions suspect ice conditions. That’s what makes us additionally wary about posting anything as fact.

It’s not to say the Laing family are or aren’t going to sue, we simply don’t know. I wouldn’t expect comment from the named parties in the possible suit, either. If a lawsuit is brewing, speaking on the suit or the incident that led to Denna’s injury by the organizations can be used as ammunition in court.

3B. Donations continue to roll in for Denna’s recovery. Here are some of the most recent charitable ventures:

    AROUND THE RINKS 

    Masking the real dangers of hockey’s full face shield. [Cognoscenti]

    Five fabulous reasons girls should try hockey. [I Love to Watch You Play]

    Growing the game for the next generation. [The Concordian]

    NWHL/CHWL: The optics of fighting and player Safety (Part III) [VP]

    Inferno focused on blazing to the top of the charts. [Calgary Herald]

    Growing pains in the NWHL: Brawls, rules, and injuries. [Along the Boards]

    Mandi Schwartz night brings teammates, rivals together. [Today’s Slapshot]

    NWHL: The new league in town. [SI Kids]

    Vermont women blaze trail into pro hockey. [Burlington Free Press]

    Boston Pride partners with Do It For Daron Foundation for Home Game. [NWHL]

    Growing the game, parity, and catchphrases in women’s college hockey. [The Victory Press]

     – – – – – – –

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    THE BIG SHOW

    Saturday

    CWHL

    Les Canadiennes de Montreal (12-2-0) at Boston Blades (1-17-0) – 7:00pm ET

    Toronto Furies (4-13-1) at Calgary Inferno (12-2-2) – 8:15pm ET (Stream: CWHL Live $$)

    Sunday

    CWHL

    Toronto Furies at Calgary Inferno – 12:00pm ET

    Les Canadiennes de Montreal at Boston Blades –1:30pm ET (Stream: CWHL Live $$)

    NWHL

    Connecticut Whale (11-1-0) at Boston Pride (8-3-1) – 3:00pm ET (TV: NESN; Stream: ESPN3)

    Buffalo Beauts (2-8-2) at New York Riveters (3-8-1) – 7:00pm ET (Stream: Cross-Ice Pass

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