Over 7,000 fans poured into the XL Center in Hartford on Saturday night to get a glimpse of some of the best women’s hockey players in the world. It was on that night, in the Connecticut capital, where Team Canada and Team USA kicked off their five-game rivalry series. It was the first of two tilts scheduled for December.
The sides traded powerplay goals in the first period, as Victoria Bach of Canada and Megan Keller of the United State lit the lamp. Of course, these two rivals have not only battled it out on the international stage, but they went head-to-head for years in the “Battle of Comm Ave” with Boston University and Boston College.
Amanda Kessel scored the second powerplay goal for Team USA in the middle frame, giving the American side a 2-1 lead they would not lose. Abbe Roque and Alex Carpenter would also tack on goals in a 4-1 victory for Team USA on home soil.
The night was filled with great hockey, that goes without saying. It was also a nice win for Team USA as they begin to gear up for the 2022 Winter Olympics. It’s a lot closer than you realize, and the preparation starts now. It was a solid rebound from last month’s difficult exhibition games in Pittsburgh as well. Team Canada took two of the three matchups in that series.
As important as it was on the ice, this meant a lot off the ice as well. With more than 7,000 fans in the crowd and the game broadcast live on NBCSN, there was a real visibility for the women’s game on this night. “I think it’s important for people to watch us play and see the level of talent and entertainment that’s out there,” Amanda Kessel told reporters postgame.
“The product is there. The people to watch it are there. We just need a structure set in place,” Kessel continued. That’s been the mantra for the PWHPA, which put on three major ‘Dream Gap Tour’ events in the fall. Since then, numerous other stops have taken place with single games, including one in Worcester, Mass over the weekend. The PWHPA will be back in Toronto next month.
The women of the PWHPA deserve a lot of credit for standing up for what they believe in and taking action. The ‘Dream Gap Tour’ has been a success to this point, while the international events like this rivalry series will only help to promote the game and build momentum.
Even with the built up momentum and the appetite clearly there, the NHL has stayed out of matters. A report recently came out that the league still has not budged on that, even though there were rumblings in the fall that Gary Bettman and company were contemplating some sort of women’s league.
“We can look at (the WNBA) and see that women’s sports have value and they have a place in this world,” said Sarah Nurse. Nurse’s cousin Kia is currently a member of the New York Liberty of the WNBA. “That is definitely a model that we look to.” Nurse, per reports, made $2,000 last season playing in the CWHL. That simply is not sustainable.
The WNBA model is not without its flaws, and it won’t produce a successful league right away. It will take time to build and there will be ups and downs. That said, from here, it looks like the best model for a sustainable women’s hockey league. It appears the PWHPA agrees with that sentiment.
Saturday night was another notch in the belt for the women’s game. They got a terrific crowd in Hartford and the game was front and center on national television on a quiet Saturday night. Once again, eyes were on the women’s game. Once again, people were left impressed and wanting more. Game 1? I’d call it a successful evening in Hartford.
The series shifts to Canada tomorrow night when the sides visit Moncton, NB. The series will break until February 3rd, when the countries meet back in Vancouver for games on the 3rd and the 5th. It will conclude on February 8th in Anaheim.