The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association made history on Sunday night with the first women’s professional hockey game hosted at Madison Square Garden, as part of the 2021 Dream Gap Tour.
“It’s historic,” New Hampshire forward Amanda Kessel said afterward. “I mean the energy even in this building without fans, it’s incredible. This is a memory we’ll never forget, and hopefully we’ll be back.”
New Hampshire beat Minnesota 4-3 behind two goals and two assists from Kessel’s linemate, Brianna Decker, who opened the scoring less than a minute into the game. Minnesota rallied in the third period with goals from Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield but couldn’t find the equalizer.
“This is a huge step for us,” Decker said. “We’re trying to obviously build here and try to build something bigger and better for women’s hockey and women’s professional hockey, and this gave us huge visibility. … That’s a huge stage for us to play on, and I was really pleased with how we played and moved the puck and showed a lot of our skill.”
Women’s sports pioneer Billie Jean King spoke before the game, telling the players to “take a moment to look up at the most iconic ceiling in all sports and entertainment, because you’re about to bust through it.”
You have all done so much to advance hockey,” King added. “… We’re so proud of you because of this right here, we’re going to stand right here beside you. And then we’re going to fight for every girl and every woman who will be standing on their skates, playing on the ice right where you are — not for years, for generations to come. So get ready.
“Keep fighting for equality and equity that every woman deserves in every single sport. You’re doing something bold, meaningful, long-lasting. There’s no better feeling, so go for it. And let’s play hockey!”
Why was this game so important?
Meg Linehan, staff writer: While the PWHPA is still essentially running a series of exhibition games as they determine their approach through the pandemic, Sunday night’s game had a much larger platform thanks to two major factors: the fact that it was the first women’s professional game at Madison Square Garden, and that it was broadcast on national television.
As the leader of the PWHPA, Jayna Hefford said after the game that level of visibility is crucial right now. “The skill and the talent was just so evident,” she said. “I hope people looked at tonight and thought, ‘this is what professional women’s hockey should look like,’ in an arena like this, on television like this, and with first-class broadcasters. “
Professional women’s hockey will be hitting the ice for the first time at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The game is part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) Dream Gap Tour’s second season and is hosted by the New York Rangers, a partner of the league.
The matchup features the PWHPA’s two hubs of New Hampshire and Minnesota. The game will be broadcasted on NHL Network in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada at 7 p.m. ET.
The tour represents the players’ association’s ongoing efforts to bring visibility to women’s hockey. The first game of the New York showcase was played at Protec Ponds Training Centre in Somerset, New Jersey.
“We’re looking forward to taking the ice at Madison Square Garden for the first time in women’s pro hockey history,” said three-time Olympian Hilary Knight in a PWHPA statement. “This partnership with the New York Rangers, NHL Network and Sportsnet is so much more than that. It provides us with a platform to demonstrate just how exciting women’s hockey can be. The visibility it provides is why we launched the Dream Gap Tour in 2019.”
Sunday’s broadcast on NHL Network will be called by NBC Sports play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert and women’s hockey star Blake Bolden. MSG Network reporter Michelle Gingras will be rink-side.
“NHL Network is excited for the opportunity to showcase this important game in the continued growth of women’s hockey,” said Eric Eisenberg, NHL Network VP of Programming and Operations. “Working alongside NBC Sports and MSG Network, we’re committed to produce a high-quality broadcast on what promises to be a memorable night featuring some of the best women’s hockey players in the world.”