There will be a new event at the NHL’s All-Star game: a three-on-three scrimmage between top American and Canadian women’s hockey players, sources tell ESPN.
The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues are hosting 2020 All Star weekend, which begins on Jan. 24. The NHL is expected to announce full details of the activities — including a new element at the skills competition, as well as the women’s three-on-three event — later this week.
The NHL has invited women’s hockey players to participate in its All-Star weekend in each of the past three years. In Tampa in 2018, the NHL asked Team USA Olympians — who were training nearby ahead of PyeongChang — to demonstrate drills for the skills competition. Last year in San Jose, the NHL went even further; Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star skills competition.
In the fastest skater event, Kendall Coyne Schofield posted a time of 14.346, which placed seventh out of a field that also included Connor McDavid, Cam Atkinson, Mathew Barzal, Jack Eichel, Miro Heiskanen, Clayton Keller and Elias Pettersson. Coyne Schofield finished ahead of Keller’s 14.526 seconds. McDavid won in 13.378, his third straight title in the event.
“Obviously I was a little nervous,” Coyne Schofield said afterward. “But I knew it was a moment that was going to break a lot of barriers and a moment that would change the perception of our game.”
Coyne Schofield impressed the crowd — who began chanting “USA! USA!” — as well as the other skaters.
“When she took off, I was like, ‘Wow,'” McDavid said. “I thought she won the event.”
All of the women selected to play in 2020 NHL All Star weekend are part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association — a group of some-200 players boycotting professional hockey this season, while waiting for a more sustainable pro league. There have been some suggestions that the NHL should help form that league.
“For the women’s team league to survive, they need the established identity that hits the ground running and knows how to run the sport,” John Langel, a lawyer advising the PWHPA, said at the ESPNW summit. “And we’ve not been secretive about it. We think the one viable option is the WNHL. And that’s what we’re moving towards.”
The NHL has re-iterated that it will not create a league as long as a current option exists. The NWHL is currently in its fifth season and has made several efforts this season to offer its athletes better pay.