NHL fans received a bit of a surprise at the league’s all star skills competition this past weekend, as Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in that event.
For those who didn’t have a chance to watch the skills competition, or haven’t read any sports media of late. Ms. Schofield took part in the fastest skater competition, in place of Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon. It was a neat thing to see, and got me thinking about how this was a perfect opportunity to both showcase one of the more talented female hockey players and to put the spotlight on women’s hockey as a whole.
As much as it was great to see a female hockey player make history, and be put in the spotlight at an NHL event, I think there needs to be more done to grow the game of women’s hockey. The best way to start, in my mind, would be to merge the two women’s leagues, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). This would bring the most talented women’s hockey players together to compete in one league, similar to how the NHL operates as a North American league. But, most of all, this would allow the NHL to throw their support behind the one league. As it stands now, the NHL can’t really support either, as they don’t want to show favouritism toward one league or the other. With the support of one of North America’s most influential and successful sports leagues behind them, the merged league could potentially benefit from a better marketed game and could create a new business model that could make them one of the most successful female sports leagues.
I think the NHL should continue to allow women to take part in the all star weekend every year moving forward, as a way to showcase how many talented female hockey players there are in Canada and the United States.
Now, on the topic of women in sports, I think it is inevitable in the near future there will be women involved, at the NHL level, as coaches and general managers. Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas made headlines, in August, when the team announced they had hired Hayley Wickenheiser, one of the most successful players in the history of women’s hockey, as their assistant director of player development. This is a good start.
It is also worth noting the Leafs employ Barb Underhill as a skating development consultant. In a different sports league, the NBA, there are already female assistant coaches employed. I think with viewpoints changing in pro sports, soon you will see women holding some of the coveted coaching and front office jobs on NHL teams.
I think it was great to see Kendall Coyne Schofield get her shot to showcase one of her skills in front of an NHL crowd, and I am optimistic about the future of women in hockey.
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Is a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, so if you see him, feel free to say hello. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @dancearnsy