The Winter Classic festivities at Gillette Stadium will now include women’s professional hockey, in addition to NHL.
But some of the best female players may not be there.
The Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League and the Montreal Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League will face off Dec. 31, the day before the Bruins and Canadiens take to the outdoor ice. It will mark the first time that two teams from the rival women’s professional hockey leagues have played each other.
But eight of the Pride’s best players — including US Olympians Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Gigi Marvin, and Kacey Bellamy — will be among 37 women taking part in a US women’s national team training camp. The camp, which will be held Dec. 27 through Jan. 1 in Blaine, Minn., will be used to select the roster for the 2016 Women’s World Championships.
At the moment, the NWHL plans to replace the missing players with five players from other NWHL teams and the four Pride practice players who regularly substitute for injured teammates.
The five players from other NWHL teams will have local ties, either growing up in New England or playing for a local college.
The NWHL is in its inaugural season with four teams — Boston, the Buffalo Beauts, the Connecticut Whale, and the New York Riveters — and the Winter Classic offers a tremendous opportunity to gain exposure and introduce the women’s game to a broader audience. The Pride regularly play home games at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center at Harvard.
So far, USA Hockey has been unable to find a way for the Pride eight to play in the Winter Classic. A column in The Hockey News, citing a USA Hockey source, said that the players could skip the training camp and play in the Winter Classic, but that such a move could jeopardize their chances of playing in the World Championships, which are scheduled from March 28 to April 4 in Canada.