Boston Pride hockey player Denna Laing suffered a “significant spinal injury” during the Outdoor Women’s Classic at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 31, according to a press release from the National Women’s Hockey League. Late in the first period, she stepped on a stick and went headfirst into the boards.
Doctors continue to evaluate her status.
A statement from Laing’s parents, Jerilyn and Dennis, said Denna “has limited movement of her arms and no feeling in her legs.”
“Our prayer going forward is that Denna can be moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a Rehabilitation Center and continue to fight everyday with her trademark grit and resolve,” said Jerilyn and Dennis. “With respect to her long term prognosis, right now there are more questions than answers.
“We have received an incredible outpouring of love and support from countless friends and family members while we try to navigate this overwhelming situation. We are eternally grateful to everyone who continues to offer support as we take on this challenge together.”
Her Boston Pride teammates shared their thoughts, prayers and support.
“Honestly, no one likes to hear that type of news,” said Brianna Decker. “She’s an unbelievable person. She always has a smile on her face. She lightens the mood whenever she walks into the locker room. We’re really missing her in the locker room right now . . . I’m sort of speechless with everything right now.”
NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Bruins president Cam Neely, Montreal Canadians owner Geoff Molson, and the Kraft family also released statements through the NWHL. In recognition of how Laing inspired teammates and coaches, Rylan has directed all NWHL players to wear a helmet sticker with her uniform number, 24.
Statements praised Laing’s tenaciousness and promised the support of the greater hockey community.
“Everyone at the National Hockey League, including the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, joins Denna Laing’s coaches, teammates, friends and fans in wishing Denna the very best as she confronts the challenges ahead,” said Bettman. “While we are certain Denna will be served well by the tenaciousness that is her trademark, we also will work with the Laing family to rally the support of the hockey family during Denna’s rehabilitation.”
Added Neely: “The New England hockey community is an incredibly strong group, and we know the assistance that will be provided to Denna and her family will be unwavering both in the immediate future and throughout the various stages of treatment.”
The Kraft family said it was saddened to learn of the extent of Laing’s injuries and added, “Our prayers remain with Denna and her family in the hope that she will soon be able to transition to a rehabilitation center that will enable her to continue to improve. We will keep Denna and her family in our prayers throughout her rehabilitation process.”
Respecting the wishes of the Laing family for privacy, the NHL and others withheld comment until Friday. And Bettman said the league would continue to honor those wishes.
For anyone interested in following Laing’s progress or making a donation, Laing’s family and friends have set up the website, www.dennalaing.org. NWHL players were notified of the Laing’s condition shortly before the release of information by the NWHL.
Laing grew up in Marblehead and played for the Assabet Valley girls’ hockey program along with her two sisters. Her father is a coach with the program. She played for Noble and Greenough in high school, then Princeton University. She was captain of the Princeton team for two years, and led the team in goals and scoring as a senior.
Following college, Laing played for the Boston Blades in the CWHL before she joined the Pride and the NWHL for its inaugural season. The NWHL is the first professional league in women’s hockey in North America that pays its players.
Laing was one of four players on the Pride practice squad before she was called up for Winter Classic duty, replacing teammates who were attending the national team training camp in Blaine, Minn.
According to her parents, Laing “was thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League and was absolutely delighted to be one of the pioneers in a breakthrough moment for her sport — the Outdoor Women’s Classic.”