The NHL is adding a little extra best-on-best competition to the 2020 NHL Honda All-Star Weekend.
In a new addition to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka, the NHL has created the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 presented by adidas, in which the American All-Stars and Canadian All-Stars will play head-to-head in a 20-minute 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 24 in St. Louis.
The tournament will be presented as one of six events at the All-Star skills, alongside the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, the Bud Light NHL Save Streak, Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting, the Enterprise NHL Hardest Shot, and another new event, the Gatorade NHL Shooting Stars.
“The intention here is to give these elite players the forum they’ve earned and they deserve,” said Steve Mayer, NHL executive vice president and chief content officer. “It’s thrilling for us to be able to give them this moment. This is a meaningful event — it’s on national television, not only are they going to be performing and playing in front of 20,000 people in the arena, but they are also playing in front of 40 of the greatest players in the NHL. We’re so confident that they will put on a great display.”
Though elite women’s players have been invited to participate in All-Star Weekend since 2012, this is first time in which they have an event dedicated solely to them. A group of players, including Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, Meghan Duggan, and Hannah Brandt, demonstrated a few of the events at the 2018 All-Star Skills competition.
That ramped up last season, when the NHL added Kendall Coyne Schofield to the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition at the 2019 All-Star Skills event. Coyne Schofield was in San Jose originally to again demonstrate at some of the skills events with Rebecca Johnston, Renata Fast and Brianna Decker. Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon couldn’t participate in the event because of a bruised left foot. Coyne Schofield got the nod and turned in a time of 14.346 seconds, creating one of the best moments of the weekend.
“To be able to have the support of the NHL and having us out there last year, the four of us, and then being able to do this 3-on-3 shows that they care and that they want to support us,” Johnston said. “We’re hoping that this will continue. We’re very appreciative of everything that they’ve done for us so far — the platform and having the attention that we’ve had so far. It’s really helping with the growth of women’s hockey.”
Each team will have nine skaters and one goalie, with the 20 players having combined for 39 Olympic and 109 World Championship medals. The American All-Stars team will consist of forwards Coyne Schofield, Decker, Kessel, Knight, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Annie Pankowski, and Alex Carpenter, defensemen Kacey Bellamy and Lee Stecklein, and goalie Alex Rigsby Cavallini.
The Canadian All-Stars team will have forwards Meghan Agosta, Melodie Daoust, Johnston, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, and Blayre Turnbull, defensemen Fast and Laura Fortino, and goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens. The teams will be coached by Hockey Hall of Famers Cammi Granato and Jayna Hefford.
“In coming out of last year’s terrific showing by the women that we invited and Kendall’s incredible performance, we actually started immediately coming out of last year’s All-Star, saying, ‘What can we do to continue to build on the exposure and opportunity, so that next year in St. Louis can even be better?'” said Susan Cohig, the NHL’s executive vice president for club business affairs. “It really came together as this opportunity to find a way that could provide meaningful opportunity on the ice and showcase the best in the world, and let fans see them.”
The 20 players were selected by the NHL in consultation with a committee that included Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Granato, Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenheiser. The game will also be officiated by a team of women, with referees Kelly Cooke and Katie Guay and linesmen Kendall Hanley and Kirsten Welsh.
The format offers something a little different for the players, who usually play 4-on-4 in overtime.
“I think it’s really going to showcase the talent that we have, obviously 3-on-3, a lot of open ice,” Johnston said. “There’s a lot of speed in our game and puck skill. So I think it will really showcase our speed, our talent on the ice, be able to make plays. I think it’s really going to open up the ice. I think it will be really good for us, a lot of fun.”
And a way for the general public to see and appreciate their game and their skill.
That, in the end, was the biggest thing to come out of last year’s All-Star appearance by the women. In addition to the $25,000 that the NHL donated to charities or hockey programs of their choice, the NHL and the stage provided a chance for the women to demonstrate their abilities to a wide audience.
It was something that Coyne Schofield said at the time she believed was going to open “an amazing amount of doors.”
“Just obviously being able to be in that platform and that spotlight last year, for us four girls that were there, I think made a huge impact on women’s hockey and hockey in general,” said Decker, who gave her money to establish the Brianna Decker Endowment for Girls Hockey, a fund created through the USA Hockey Foundation to provide grants to 8-under and 10-under female hockey programs within the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association. “I think having Kendall actually being able to participate in the skills comp put women’s hockey a little bit more on the map, and [made] people a little bit more aware of the skill level that we have and that we can showcase.”
It has. Coyne Schofield’s performance in the Fastest Skater and Decker’s performance demonstrating the 2019 Enterprise NHL Premier Passer competition went viral, as fans got to see the amount of skill and talent there is in the women’s game — at least for those who didn’t already know.
“For anyone that was surprised at what Kendall did on the ice, they haven’t been paying attention because these are the best players in the world and when you watch what they’re able to do, not only in terms of what they do at our events, but when they perform on the world stage, whether it’s the Olympics or the World Championships or rivalry series, they are truly elite players in the sport,” Cohig said.
The game will be for bragging rights, as it always is between the United States and Canada, for showcasing the women’s sport — and for something more.
“Because of where the sport is and the importance of its growth opportunities for future generations, in particular for these women, it’s about creating those opportunities for the next generation,” Cohig said. “So to be able to use our event and dollars that the players can direct to enable the next generation of girls to play, I think it’s really beneficial.
“We want more Rebecca Johnstons and Brianna Deckers and Renata Fasts and Kendall Coynes. We don’t want to be talking about one. We want to be talking about 10 of them. Ten Rebecca Johnstons. To be able to have that be an effect of what we do probably is more important than anything.”
The National Hockey League Foundation will donate $100,000 to certain girls hockey organizations on behalf of the American and Canadian All-Stars.