For the first time in history, professional women’s hockey will be played at Madison Square Garden. On Wednesday, the PWHPA, New York Rangers and Bauer announced a partnership aimed to advance women’s professional hockey. As part of that partnership, the New Hampshire and Minnesota Regional Training Hubs will faceoff on February 28th, 2021 at 7:00 pm in a Dream Gap Tour Game at Madison Square Garden. The game will follow an NHL meeting between the host Rangers and visiting Boston Bruins.
“This is a major milestone for women’s hockey and young girls who aspire to play professional hockey but don’t have the option to make it a career today,” Jayna Hefford, PWHPA operations consultant, said in an official release. “NHL teams are uniquely positioned to elevate women’s hockey to the next level. They bring major brand strength, corporate relationships and access to a fan base. I want to thank the New York Rangers and Bauer Hockey for helping us reach this achievement. We’re even more excited to celebrate this milestone on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.”
In addition to Bauer and the Rangers, Chase is stepping up as the presenting sponsor of this historic game. With these forces all joining together to showcase women’s professional hockey, it’s hard not to be excited about what lies ahead in late February.
The Rangers organization is the first NHL organization to truly step up and support professional women’s hockey in this way. It’s a landmark announcement that could open the door for more partnerships. The Rangers were beaming with excitement when this was officially announced this morning.
“The talent level of women’s hockey is simply incredible, and the Rangers organization is honored to host this game. We’re excited to play even a small role in helping elevate visibility for the women’s game,” said John Davidson, President, New York Rangers. “We all love this sport so much and any opportunity the Rangers have to participate in its advancement is something we want to be a part of. It’s a win for everyone involved.”
The New Hampshire Regional Training Hub will be one of two teams taking part in the event, going against the Minnesota Regional Training Hub for the first time. The group is coached by Bill Flanagan, who recently coached a team of PWHPA All-Stars with players from both regions in Tampa Bay.
“This is an awesome opportunity for these women,” Flanagan told ‘The Women’s Hockey Tribune’. “It’s great to see an NHL club finally put action with words! It is long overdue and I’m thrilled to see it. These women are amazing people and athletes, and quite frankly they deserve this opportunity. I’m honored to be a small part of it as a coach!”
Forward Amanda Kessel, who plays for the New Hampshire Regional Training Hub and trained in Tampa Bay in early January, has a long relationship with the Rangers. She too expressed excitement on Wednesday when asked for comment.
“I couldn’t be more excited to take part in this historic event. The first professional women’s hockey game at Madison Square Garden is such a thrilling opportunity,” Kessel said. “This is a huge stepping stone in our mission and I can’t thank the Rangers, Bauer, Chase, and all the other sponsors enough for stepping up, especially in such uncertain times.”
According to the PWHPA’s release, this announcement is launching the 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour. The game at Madison Square Garden will kick off the tour and additional showcases will be added in the United States and Canada. Per the PWHPA, games and logistics will adhere to local guidelines.
The launching of the Dream Gap Tour gives optimism that more events like this could take place in the future, potentially the near future.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” forward Chelsey Goldberg said after the announcement. “With the unknown of what COVID brings, and the Canadian border still being closed, there has been a lot of wondering and hoping that we will begin play soon. For the Rangers to be the first NHL team to step up and not only join forces to make history, but to provide us with a place to play, is pretty amazing. It makes me believe that this is only the beginning, and that there will be many more announcements like this to come!”
According to sources, there will be “strict” COVID protocols in place for the Dream Gap Tour to ensure the safety of both players and staff.
Stay tuned for more details and full coverage of this historic event!