Buffalo Beauts goaltender Brianne McLaughlin’s professional hockey career came to a close on Sunday in the best way possible: she retires as a champion.
The Beauts went into the Isobel Cup Final as the undisputed underdogs to the Boston Pride. It was the heroics of McLaughlin, with some help from her teammates, that gave the Beauts their first Isobel Cup championship and her the playoff MVP honors. Beating the Pride by a score of 3-2.
McLaughlin adds an Isobel Cup and playoff MVP to her war chest of two Olympic silver medals, two golds and a silver medal from World Championships and wins at the Four Nations Cup. Not a bad career at all.
WHO: No. 1 Boston Pride vs. No. 3 Buffalo Beauts
WHAT: Isobel Cup Final – winner take all
WHERE: Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell
WHEN: TODAY! Sunday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. EST
HOW TO WATCH: ABCNews.com/Live or the ABC News app
The last four days have been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the members of the US Women’s National team.
While juggling the negotiations with USA Hockey and the media appearances to discuss their cause, a majority of the players had to also finish their professional hockey season in the NWHL.
Over the last 36-ish hours, the he members of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) have been subject to nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions.
On Wednesday, the team announced a boycott of the upcoming World Championships if USA Hockey didn’t meet their demands for equal pay, promotion, organizational support and more.
On Thursday, USA Hockey stated the team had a deadline of 5:00 p.m. EST to tell the organization if they truly intended not to play. Which was later walked back by USA Hockey somewhat in a conversation with Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Hersch.
After all that, a majority of the national team had to take to the ice for an NWHL winner-take-all semifinal playoff game between the Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale.
Recognizing the importance of the moment, the NWHL ditched their normal introductions for a special ceremony.
We have some good news to report in the world of women’s hockey!
The NWHL and the American Broadcasting Corporation (a.k.a. ABC) have announced a partnership to live stream games from the Isobel Cup playoffs. Games will be available on ABCNews.com/Live and the ABC News app.
Puck Daddy was told there should be no issues for our friends in Canada to stream the games.
“We’re proud that ABC has partnered with us during this big week in our league’s young history,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said via press release. “We’re very appreciative of ABC News for its support of the NWHL and women’s hockey.”
It starts on Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST with the semi-final match-up between the No. 2 New York Riveters and No. 3 Buffalo Beauts from Barnabas Health Hockey House in New Jersey. It’s a one game, winner-take-all.
The victor heads to the Isobel Cup final on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. EST from Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
They’ll meet the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 1 Boston Pride and No. 4 Connecticut Whale. This game will be streamed through the NWHL website at 7:30 p.m. EST.
The NWHL continues their weekend celebration of women’s hockey with the league’s All-Star Game.
Amanda Kessel (sister of Phil) and Kelley Steadman will lead their respective squads in a gold versus black challenge. The two teams were assembled in January and announced over social media.
Hosting the game this weekend are the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve thrown their big machine behind the NWHL to promote and help sell out the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex (the practice facility of the Penguins) for the game itself.
Here’s what you need to know going into the game.
The NWHL dropped a few major announcements on Thursday evening that gives a glance into what the league’s plans are going forward.
The biggest change impacts the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Instead of the regular season ending on April 16, it will now conclude on March 12.
The season bleeding into April was due to a three week league-wide break for national team players to play at World Championships and an increase in the number of regular season games played.
Now the three week break is gone as are 12 regular season games that would have taken place had the playoffs not been moved up. Boston and Buffalo will miss out on four games each while New York and Connecticut will lose two each.
As for the playoffs, they will take place between March 17-19. Biggest change here is compact schedule.
Last year, the Isobel Cup semi-final and final took place over two weekends with each round featuring a best-of-three series.
That’s gone now.
The National Women’s Hockey League will hold their second annual All-Star Game at UMPC Mario Lemieux Sports Complete, the practice facility of the Penguins. The NWHL Skills Competition is on Saturday, Feb. 11 and the All-Star Game is Sunday, Feb. 12.
As such the stylized jerseys feature the black and gold of the Steel City. Team Steadman, captained by Kelley Steadman of the Buffalo Beauts, will don the black jerseys. While Team Kessel, captained by New York Riveters forward Amanda Kessel, will wear gold.
One thing we don’t see is a traditional white jersey, and for that we applaud the NWHL. Their counterparts in the NHL won’t budge on that rule.
On Tuesday, the National Women’s Hockey League unveiled a ground breaking policy for the inclusion of transgender athletes. This the first professional sport league – male or female – to create a policy specifically for transgender athletes.
The purpose of the policy is outlined as, “The NWHL recognizes all forms of gender expression. Therefore, the NWHL supports athletes choosing to express their gender beyond the binary of female and male. The NWHL will use the eligibility guidelines set out in this policy in order to ensure a fair and level playing field for all participants.”
Written in conjunction with the You Can Play Project (YCP) and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NLCR), the league based the policy on the International Olympic Committee’s revamped guidelines incorporating the ‘latest scientific and legal attitudes’ surrounding transgender athletes. In years prior, the IOC required athletes to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery in order to compete as their self-identified gender. This is no longer the case.
In the wake of the National Women’s Hockey League’s announcement of salary cut and the departure of three players (thus far) positive news is hard to come by.
On Friday, the league announced a bonus program for players directly tied to ticket sales.
From the NWHL press release:
For each game, players will receive 100 percent of ticket revenue after 500 tickets are sold. There will be a 50/50 split between the home and road teams participating in the game. The bonus is for every regular season game at every venue, and went into effect on Dec. 1.
“The decision to have the players benefit from strong attendance came out of recent discussions about how we can grow our league and business together,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “We’re very happy to offer this to the players and be the only women’s hockey league in North America that not only compensates its players, but provides attendance-based bonuses. The players make our league, and they deserve this. Our fans should know that when they come out to see NWHL games and fill the stands, they are supporting our amazing players in a big way.”
As an example, when the Boston Pride hosted the Connecticut Whale on Dec. 3 and drew a capacity crowd of 750, the players from both teams shared all of the revenue from the 250 tickets sold over the 500-seat mark. The attendance-related payout is a bonus beyond each player’s salary.
Connecticut Whale captain Molly Engstrom became the third player to leave the NWHL following the announcement of salary cuts.
Per a league press release, Engstrom played her last game for the Whale this past Sunday, and head to Sweden to play in the professional women’s league.
Sources tell Puck Daddy, Engstrom will join Djurgårdens IF. Looking at SWEHockey.se, it appears her new team will play next after the new year.
This was Engstrom’s second season playing for the Connecticut Whale. She signed in the first year for $12,000 and produced 5-points in 15 games played. For year two, she earned a $6,000 pay increase to $18,000. At the time of her departure, the defenseman had recorded 3-points through nine games.