This weekend, the NHL All-Star game is taking place in San Jose, California. The festivities start with a skills competition on Friday night followed by Saturday’s 3-on-3 tournament. The best players in the league have come together to celebrate the game and show what the best of the best can do.
Last season, the NHL invited ladies from the USA National Team to “demonstrate” the events for the competition. The representatives, Hannah Brandt, Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan, then went on to win a gold medal at the Pyeong-Chang Olympic Games. The NHL decided to extend the invite to Canadian players this season, and two women from each side of the cross-border rivalry made the trip to San Jose. Representing Canada are Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast, and representing the USA are Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield. All four of these women competed at the previous Olympic Games.
The fastest skater competition is one of the most exciting events of the day, and this year, it certainly did not disappoint. The Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon was unable to participate in the event as a result of an injury, so Coyne Schofield got her shot.
The Avalanche proposed the idea to her on Twitter:
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 25, 2019
Just a few minutes later we got Kendall’s response…
— Kendall Coyne Schofield (@KendallCoyne) January 25, 2019
Kendall Coyne Schofield then became the first woman to participate in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition event. In her Team USA uniform, she skated to a 14.346 finish. The crowd chanted “USA, USA, USA,” and stick taps all around credited her performance. To put this into perspective, the fastest player in the competition and the best player in the National Hockey League, Connor McDavid, finished his skate at a 13.378. He has now won this event three straight times. Kendall finished under a second behind arguably the best player in the world…let that sink in. She even had a faster time than three other competitors (Zach Werenski CBJ, 14.250; Noah Hanifin CGY, 14.317, and Josh Bailey NYI, 14.413).
Kendall’s Team USA teammate, Brianna Decker also had success of her own on Friday night. Decker “demonstrated” the Premier Passing event. The winner of the event, Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers finished with a time of 1:09. Brianna’s time? 1:06…She beat the fastest time of the competition. The NHL pays the winner of each event $25,000, but because Decker was “demonstrating” the cheque went to Draisaitl. Fans have started #PayDecker in an effort to have her be compensated for her performance.
As always, a few Twitter users had to ruin the magic of the event by making comments regarding women in the game and frankly, it is a waste of time on their part. The players loved it, the staff loved it and the true fans, they loved it too.
During the evening, the players all took their turns taking pictures together and chatting. This is what All-Star Weekend is all about. It is about community and sharing the love of the sport. Seeing the women out there with the men gave me, a female athlete and hockey player, not only joy but also hope for the future. Hope that one day this conversation will never have to be had. Hope that hockey players are no longer defined by their gender but by their skill and their love for the game. A hope that one day all athletes will have equal opportunity to make a living playing hockey and all sports in general. The NHL gives a stage for the best hockey players in the world to display their skills – why should it matter what gender they are?
To support women’s hockey, check out the CWHL to watch Johnston, Fast and Decker and the NWHL to watch Coyne Schofield. These leagues are home to many Olympians and other fantastic athletes.
Feature Image: Instagram @HockeyCanada