Women’s hockey trending after NHL all-star skills event

Can female hockey harness the buzz?

The NHL’s inclusion of Canadian players Rebecca Johnson and Renata Fast and Americans Kendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker alongside the league’s stars made hockey headlines in San Jose, Calif., this past weekend.

Coyne Schofield, the first woman to compete in the skills event, injected heat into the speed event throwing down a fast lap for the men to beat.

A social media campaign demanded Decker be paid winner’s prize money with the argument she was faster demonstrating the passing drill than the men were competing in it.

Johnston, from Sudbury, Ont., held her own demonstrating the tricky puck control drill that gave Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson trouble.

“Performance sent a message,” former Canadian women’s team captain Cassie Campbell-Pascall told The Canadian Press on Monday. “That to me was what was so powerful.

“What they showed is what we’ve known all along is that they’re skilled, fast, strong and dedicated. For whatever reason, a lot of people were still shocked.

“Where the proof in the pudding will be is if people who were shocked start showing up and watching these women play on a regular basis.”

For the NHL players, Friday’s skills competition may have been a made-for-television event with little on the line other than ego and prize money.

But it was an extraordinary opportunity for women to prove a point about their game similar to Billie Jean King in tennis or Annika Sorenstam in golf, said Campbell-Pascall.

“Do you remember watching Annika Sorenstam when she played against the men and she hit this beautiful drive on the first tee?” she asked.

“If they don’t perform in that moment, it sets us back 20 years. It’s awful to say that, but that’s the reality women’s sports is in.”

“I think we grew our sport this weekend immensely,” said Decker, a teammate of Johnston’s with the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno.

RELATED: 1 women’s league on the minds of Canadian, U.S. players at Four Nations Cup

The NHL invited Coyne Schofield into the fastest skater event when Colorado’s Nathan McKinnon pulled out with an injury.

The first skater to go, her lap of 14.346 seconds was faster than Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes (14.526) and just over a second back of winner Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (13.378).

Dallas Stars defenceman Miro Heiskanen fell, but was given a do-over for a time of 13.914.

Johnston watched Coyne Schofield’s lap from the players’ bench and saw eyebrows go up.

“I think she definitely put the pressure on them for sure,” Johnston said.

Even though she demonstrated the puck control drill and didn’t compete in it, Johnston felt the weight of the moment with the television cameras following her and the eyes of the NHL’s top players on her.

“Oh my god, I felt so much pressure,” the three-time Olympian said. “I didn’t want to screw up too badly and make us look bad.

“The most intimidating thing was the best hockey players in the world are there watching you. They’re all one knee on the ice just staring at me.”

The NHL didn’t post an official time for her or Decker, whose demo for the premier passer drill didn’t even make it on television.

But nothing happens in a vacuum in the age of mobile phones. A video and a stated time of one minute six seconds sparked a #PayDecker social medal campaign contending Decker was faster than winner Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers (1:09).

Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman later reported the NHL had clocked Decker at 1:12 or 1:13, but the digital debate was in full swing at that point.

The spotlight stayed on the women after the skills competition as Adidas announced endorsement deals with the four women, the NHL committed a $25,000 donation per player to a charity of her choice and the hockey equipment company CCM waded in with a $25,000 bonus for Decker.

“Between the three different things that happened this weekend, none of it was expected and it did feel like a huge, huge step for our sport,” Decker said.

Among the immediate ripples created Friday:

— Female hockey is trending in a quiet week in the NHL schedule, and also in a non-Olympic year when the profile of the female game drops.

— Other stars of the women’s game have emerged to join well-known names Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight.

— Coyne Schofield, Decker, Johnston and Fast brought attention to February’s three-game series between Canada and the U.S. starting Feb. 12 in London, Ont., then Toronto on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 in Detroit.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP search for missing 17-year-old girl

Mikayla Logan was last seen in Guildford on Tuesday, May 14

GALLERY: Cloverdale Rodeo Parade brings thousands through the town centre

From ponies to hot rods, the 73rd annual parade had it all

Free winter parking, higher summer rates eyed for White Rock waterfront

Councillor calls for more hard data on the impact of trial free parking on Marine Drive businesses

Surrey to begin ‘public engagement process’ on policing transition next week

First in a series of public events set for May 23 at Cloverdale rec centre

Construction launched for South Surrey high school

Education minister announces $6M for completion of land for new school in Sunnyside neighbourhood

Jeep totalled, four young people in hospital, after single-vehicle crash in Surrey

Mounties have not ruled out any possible factors in what led to the overnight crash

Canadian killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

Man dies after being hit by car in East Vancouver

The driver involved is cooperating with police

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Most Read

l -->