NHL All-Star Games Should Include CWHL & NWHL


NHL All-Star Games Should Include CWHL & NWHL

By Chris Cole

January 30, 2019

With the NHL All-Star Game and it’s festivities officially over this past Sunday the NHL actually were able to do something they haven’t do in awhile: generate talk about the sport and it’s future.  While the game did not generate any real hype besides the jerseys each player was wearing, it was the Skills Competition that caused a frenzy. It wasn’t because of what any NHL player did, it was because of two women: Americans Kendall Coyne Schofield of the NWHL’s Minnesota Whitecaps and Brianna Decker of the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno.  Their participation in the Skills Competition helped highlight a handful of stories that will be split into positives and negatives. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.


Negatives:

No mentions of the CWHL or NWHL teams


Schofield plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women's Hockey League and Decker players for the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.  Both leagues have the majority of their teams partnered with the top professional team in their city. Here are the CWHL/NWHL teams and who they are partnered with:


Women’s Team                                                                                           Men's Team

Calgary Inferno (CWHL)                                                                      Calgary Flames (NHL)

Les Canadiennes de Montréal (CWHL)                                        Montreal Canadians (NHL)

Shenzen KRS Venke Rays (CWHL)                                                   Kunlun Red Stars (KHL)

Toronto Furies (CWHL)                                                                   Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Boston Pride (NWHL)                                                                          Boston Bruins (NHL)

Buffalo Beauts (NWHL)                                                                       Buffalo Sabres (NHL)

Metropolitan Riveters (NWHL)                                                         New Jersey Devils (NHL)

Minnesota Whitecaps (NWHL)                                                           Minnesota Wild (NHL)


Both Schofield and Decker were wearing their USA uniforms while Renata Fast of the Toronto Furies and Rebecca Johnston of the Calgary Inferno (both CWHL) wore their Team Canada gear.  At no point during the festivities were their club teams mentioned, just that they played for either USA or Canada. I believe the reason behind all the international team promotion is due to the fact that the USA and Canada will be facing each other in the three-game series in February.  


Despite that, it’s no excuse for the NHL to not be promoting both leagues as teams from their own league are partnered with most of the teams in either league.  Unless you follow the CWHL or NWHL you have no idea that A) these players play in one of two professional women’s leagues in North America and B) what teams they play on for those leagues.  


Positives:

Schofield’s Fastest Skater Participation; #PayDecker


The NHL inviting four women’s professional hockey players to be a part of the Skills Competition could be the start of future inclusive All-Star Weekends in which the NHL, CWHL, and NWHL play together and showcase the top talent for their respective leagues.  Schofield participating in the Fastest Skater and being slightly less than a second slower than Connor McDavid as well as beating Clayton Keller shows that adding CWHL/NWHL players to the competition would add more interest and intrigue.


Also, knowing that Decker, as a demonstrator and not a participant, was able to beat Leon Draisaitl in the Prime Passer competition by three-seconds to be the unofficial winner shows that despite the difference in size and biology that women  players are just as skillful as their male counterparts. The winner of each competition received $25,000 and Decker, being a demonstrator, was not considered part of the official competition unlike Schofield. It was great to see #PayDecker happen and for CCM to step up and give Decker $25,000.  To an NHL player, $25k is not a big amount of money, but for women’s players it is since the top players in each league make barely over $10k a year so they need to work other jobs to make up for the income.


What this means for future All-Star Games

Here’s the thing about the NHL All-Star game: it’s a glorified pick-up game with little defence, barely any contact, and just having a good time out on the ice with people you are normally playing against night-in, night-out.  The women’s game forbids full contact and the men don’t try to check each other during the ASG so why not have women in the All-Star Game proper? It’s low-risk for injury (unless you’re Rick DiPietro) and NHL fans get to become familiar with the stars from the CWHL and NWHL.  Don’t make them wear international jerseys, give them the proper treatment you do with the NHL teams and players. You know you want to see players like Decker and Schofield taking on Henrik Lundqvist or Sidney Crosby on a breakaway against Shannon Szabados.


Will the NHL invite more women to the All-Star game next year?  They should. Inclusiveness will draw more people to the game regardless of their sex.  This moment needs to be pounced on since there's so little promotion of the women’s leagues. Cammi Granato and Team USA shocked Team Canada at the 1998 Nagano Olympics yet it took 17 years after that moment to have the first professional women’s hockey league in North America.  The time is now if we want viable ice hockey for women.


PHOTOS: Getty Images