From Women’s Hockey Tribune Contributor Jim Biringer
According to a report that was first reported by Chris Johnston on Hockey Night in Canada’s “Saturday Headlines” segment and confirmed by Emily Kaplan of ESPN, members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association from the United States and Canada will take part in a 3-on-3 scrimmage at the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend.
The 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend is being held in St. Louis, and will begin on Friday, January 24th with the skills competition and end on Saturday, January 25th with the 3-on-3 tournament. It is unclear when the women’s scrimmage will take place during All-Star weekend, as the NHL is going to make a formal announcement sometime this week.
The NHL is looking to build off of their recent success by promoting women’s hockey at their annual event. During the 2018 All-Star Game in Tampa, home of Team USA’s training facility for the Winter Olympics that year, the NHL invited 2018 Team USA members Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Hannah Brandt and Amanda Kessel to demonstrate drills for the skills competition.
In 2019, the NHL went a step further. They invited four women’s players to participate in the All-Star game festivities in San Jose.
It was at this event that American forward Kendall Coyne Schofield put the world on notice as she became the first women to participate in the skills competition competing in the fastest skater event. In addition to Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker was also a part of the skills competition. She demonstrated the passing challenge so well that her time of 1:06 beat the NHL’s best, including the winner Leon Draisaitl.
Fans flocked to social media using the hashtag #PayDecker demanding the NHL to step up and pay Decker the $25,000 prize money for having the best time. While the NHL did not pay her, hockey equipment manufacturer CCM decided to pay Decker instead. This generated a lot of positive publicity for not only CCM, but women’s hockey in general.
The NHL continues to head in the right direction when it comes to promoting the women’s game. That is especially true when using one of their marquee events. By inviting women to participate in an actual game instead of just participating in the skills competition, it gets more eyes on the product. Considering it will be the top players from USA and Canada participating in this game, it is a rivalry that everyone loves to watch. In addition, with the events being broadcast on the networks of NBC, it will give women’s hockey access to a whole new audience outside of Olympic coverage.
More than 200 of the world’s top players announced they would not play professionally in North America this season. They formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association to push for establishing a single league with a sustainable economic model. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, the PWHPA launched a series of Dream Gap tours around North America. The most recent stop was in Toronto this past weekend. Another event will be held in Philadelphia at the end of February.