Women’s hockey will be on display alongside the National Hockey League’s All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, Jan. 24-25.
A 20-minute women’s 3-on-3 game between players from United States and Canada will be part of the NHL Skills Competition broadcast Friday night on NBCSN.
The event is another chance to be part of NHL All-Star Weekend for Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker.
Knight and Decker served as demonstrators for skills competition events in the past two years, while Coyne Schofield was a late addition to the speed skate event last year in San Jose when a spot opened up because of injury.
They are part of a team of 10 U.S. players, nine skaters and a goalie, coached by former U.S. Women’s National Team member and 1998 Olmypic gold medalist Cammi Granato. They will play a team of 10 Canadian players.
Coyne Schofield took time this week to discuss the event and its significance with USAHockey.com.
USAHockey.com: Looking back to last year’s NHL All-Star Weekend, do you have a feel for how much of an impact that had on the women’s game in North America? How much visibility did that create for the skill and speed that the women’s game offers?
Kendall Coyne Schofield: I can’t believe it’s already been a year since that moment.
A lot has changed since that moment. Here we are a year later seeing 20 women incorporated in the NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis. Every year that women have been involved in the All-Star Weekend, it has increased each of the last three years. It’s nice to see the continued growth in the incorporation of women into the entire weekend.
Going from that moment at the SAP Center, when I skated in the fastest skater competition, it’s incredible to see the amount of impact it’s had on so many people whether it’s young girls and boys or adults picking up hockey for the first time, it really inspired them to fall in love with hockey in an inclusive way.
USAH: As you get ready to hit the ice with some of your fellow U.S. players against some of the best players from Canada, what’s your excitement level for this particular competition and how your involvement will be a bit different this time around?
KCS: I’m really excited for this opportunity because, again, the platform we get to play on is one of the biggest platforms we’ll see until those players who get to play in the Olympic Games.
So, kudos to the NHL for giving us this platform and each time we’ve had this platform, we’ve taken advantage of that and I would expect it to happen again in the 3-on-3 competition. What I’m most excited about is that we get to play hockey.
You saw Hilary Knight take second to Brian Boyle, two years ago in Tampa; you saw Brianna Decker take second to Leon Draisaitl in the Premier Passer [as demonstrators] last year and I obviously skated. So, now we get to put all those skills together, skating, shooting, passing and speed, and get to play hockey.
It will be fun for us to play against our archrivals and showcase the talent of women playing hockey.
USAH: You say you get to play hockey, but it’s in the 3-on-3 format. What experience do you have with that in your career and what should fans expect when watching that?
KCS: Internationally, we have not played 3-on-3 yet. Our international overtime rules have been 4-on-4 until this year. So, the first time we saw 3-on-3 on the international level was in the [Under-18 Women’s World Championship] about three weeks ago when they defeated Canada in overtime in a 3-on-3 format.
So, this will be a test run for all of us to play 3-on-3. The World Championships this coming April will have a 3-on-3 overtime format.
We’ve never played 3-on-3 against Canada. I’m excited to see how it goes.
We’ve obviously watched the 3-on-3 in the NHL many, many times, but it’s going to be an exciting game to watch for the fans.
USAH: Next up after this, you have the three games of the Rivalry Series. How excited are you to play on U.S. soil in Anaheim for the finale?
KCS: We’re very excited for the rivalry series coming up. We’re headed to training camp on Tuesday in Anaheim to prepare for the three games.
Again, kudos to supporting the Rivalry Series and, in addition, to USA Hockey and Hockey Canada for creating these three games.
We talked about more programming years ago and to see it come to fruition is really exciting for us as players. We felt like we needed more programming. We were only playing 10 games a year. So, here we are in the second year of the rivalry series and they’ve added two more games onto it and we’re excited to have it in Anaheim.
USAH: You’re talking about creating more games. How important is the visibility aspect right now in women’s hockey, and what have you seen from events like the NHL All-Star Weekend, the Rivalry Series and others? Are you seeing the growth of girls’ and women’s hockey that you would like to see from those events?
KCS: Visibility is everything. I’ve learned that through competing in two Olympic Games and the All-Star Weekend last year.
When you’re on the proper platform and you succeed on that platform, people are going to notice it.
We hear from people every four years at the Olympic Games, but we’re working hard every single day and we’re trying to create a platform where we’re more visible and we’re more accessible in the women’s game. To have more games, to have more opportunities for people to see us is extremely important.
The All-Star Game this weekend is important because there’s no bigger platform than the National Hockey League and for us to be able to be a part of that really helps project the game of women’s hockey in such a magnificent way.
I’ve heard from so many people saying they’ve never seen a woman skate before like I skated on All-Star Weekend. I was confused because I’ve skated like that my whole life. It really hit me. We need to find a way to allow us to be visible and relevant every year, not just in Olympic years.
USAH: Lastly, is there an ideal scenario for you? What would you like to see come out of this experience?
KCS: I would love to see more fans support women’s hockey. I would love to see more girls pick up hockey after watching us play and say, ‘I want to do what they’re doing.’
It’s a fun game. As soon as you put skates on for the first time, I can almost guarantee it won’t be the last.
It’s a game we love and I hope people will be inspired to pick up the game and follow their dreams just like we did because I think if you asked us a few years ago if we’d be competing alongside the men at the NHL Skills Competition, we’d think that was crazy.
Here we are proving the sky is the limit and you should always follow your dreams.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.