CWHL and NWHL Will Play Outdoor Game at Winter Classic

In a major development for women’s hockey, Elliotte Friedman reports that the CWHL’s Les Canadiennes de Montréal and the NWHL’s Boston Pride will be playing a game against each other this month.

Not only will there be an intra-league match, which would be big in itself, the game will be played outdoors at the site of the Winter Classic, Gillette Stadium in Boston.

Friedman broke the news on Sportsnet’s Headlines segment on Saturday, saying that the game will played on December 31, the day before the Winter Classic and will take place just before the Alumni Game scheduled for that same day.

The game brings together two of the biggest clubs in women’s hockey in what should be a great game, not least of all because the Boston Pride is largely comprised of players who played for the Boston club in the CWHL last season, which may help fuel some rivalry there. Both teams sport some of each league’s biggest stars, with Boston carrying Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker and Montreal carrying Marie-Philip Poulin.

But having the leagues’ stars on display shouldn’t be an issue, as Puck Daddy’s Jen Neale reports that selected players who are not on the active roster of these two teams — read: players from other teams — will be invited to play as well, to make it something akin to a CWHL All-Stars vs. NWHL All-Stars games.

This is a significant development for women’s hockey in a year where press for the women’s game has exploded stateside with the NWHL getting a lot of press and turning a lot of heads. It’ll be the first time teams from these two leagues have met, it’s the first major collision of the NHL and professional women’s hockey as some loose form of partnership and it will be the first outdoor game for either the CWHL or the NWHL.

In post-game comments Saturday, reported by Katy Tearle at Along the Boards, Hilary Knight noted that many CWHL players will not be able to play. Tearle quotes Knight as saying that “The U.S. players have a commitment to be at the national team program and we will not be attending that game at this time.”

That’s a huge blow for the NWHL, whose best players are a part of the U.S. National Team and brings into focus the report that each of the teams can bring in players who aren’t on the standard roster.

“You always want to play outdoors, it really brings you back to your, you know, when you first started skating but we have a commitment to our country right now,” Knight said.

Jen Neale tweeted that the same won’t be true for Hockey Canada players, who will be allowed to play in this game.

Seems like something that USA Hockey really needs to reconsider. This is a big moment for women’s hockey and not putting the best of the best on this stage feels like a mistake. It would be of benefit to USA Hockey to have women’s hockey given this stage and to show the immense talent of the US program, as exemplified by the talent currently in the NWHL.

The NWHL would lose, among others, Knight, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Emily Pfalzer, Kacey Bellamy and Zoe Hickel. Four of those players are on the Pride, so even if the others weren’t brought over for the game, the Pride would be losing four of their top players.

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