TopOfTheCircle.com

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Dec. 13, 2015 — … and the unlikely focal point

It’s the most unlikely economic war in the history of women’s sports. And it’s being fought just outside of Boston.

This year, there are two professional women’s ice hockey teams playing on opposite ends of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Both wear black and gold, as if to try to market themselves as the local NHL franchise, the Boston Bruins.

Only both of these teams play in different leagues. They have different structures, different pay grades, differing histories.

The established team is the Boston Blades. Playing in the CWHL last year, the team won the Clarkson Cup, emblematic of the playoff championship for that league.

The Blades, however, have struggled in 2015 at their home at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass. Entering this weekend, the Blades had won a single game and lost 11, and were bottom of the league table.

Gone are legendary international players like Jenny Potter and Monique Lamoreaux, who were on last year’s team. And also gone is the head coach, Digit Murphy, who has moved on to become one of the engineers behind the new national women’s lacrosse league.

But go about 30 miles east, and you come upon Allston, Mass. along the banks of the Charles River, to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, tucked along Soldiers Field at Harvard University. It is here where the Boston Pride of the NWHL plays their home games.

The Pride, heading into last weekend, were second in the league table, and featured one of the most recognizable names in the sport, Hilary Knight, who has played for the United States at the Olympics and World Championships. She led the league in most offensive categories coming into last weekend.

But the Pride have something that none of the other teams playing in one of the two major leagues for women’s hockey has: a television deal with the New England Sports Network.

It may be a deal for only eight games, but at least it’s something. I have a feeling that you’re going to see other networks trying to figure out ways to get more eyes on their networks if the product proves to be as compelling as NESN thinks it is.

As such, I’ll be interested to see what happens long-term when it comes to these two franchises. On form, it’s hard to see what the Blades can do to gin up support from the hockey community.

But it’s hockey. You never know.

 

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