According to Jen Neale of Puck Daddy, Elliotte Friedman has confirmed that the Boston Pride of the NWHL and Les Canadiennes de Montreal of the CWHL will play an inter-league game at Gillette Stadium, the site of the 2016 NHL Winter Classic.
Per Kate Cimini of Today's Slapshot, the game will be played on December 31 in Foxborough prior to the NHL Alumni Game.
Already, though, some of the hype has been taken out of the announcement since Hilary Knight said following her team's 7-6 win over the Buffalo Beauts Saturday night that US national team players will not be able to attend due to prior training camp commitments:
Knight postgame:"The US players have a commitment to be at the national team program and we will not be attending that game at this time."— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) December 6, 2015
The "at this time", however, is a crunchy addition to her statement, and could mean that the situation may change in the next few weeks.
With the Canadiennes having notable Canadian national team players on their roster (plus American Julie Chu), and the Pride having many from the American national team as well, it would seem to be an irresistible media opportunity for women's hockey to get on television in a highly marketable way almost two years before the 2018 Olympics.
This cooperation between the two leagues is, in and of itself, extremely exciting and unexpected. The two leagues initially seemed to have an adversarial relationship. Just a few hours prior to the Winter Classic announcement, Jen Neale also published a short interview with Brian Burke, who is currently on the Board of Directors with the CWHL, but spoke of his role changing soon due to scheduling concerns. Burke never referred to the NWHL by name and even explicitly said that he didn't think the NWHL's business model was sustainable. That level of disregard is more the norm coming from folks who have been more invested in the CWHL as of late, and the CWHL's own discussion about the NWHL has been alternatively frosty and nonexistent.
Neither league has issued a press release regarding the tilt at Gillette, but Friedman's confirmation and Knight's postgame comment would seem to indicate that it's a done deal. This is also the first push of support for professional women's hockey at a league level that we have seen from the NHL, and the fact that it incorporates both leagues is especially important.
While the Bruins and the Habs will be suiting up for the NHL Winter Classic on January 1, just as most of us will be rolling out of bed, the Pride/Canadiennes match will likely be an afternoon game on New Year's Eve. The Winter Classic is always carried nationally by NBC. If NBC or one of its stations carries the game, it could be a watershed moment for women's hockey. Either way, it looks to be a fun (and cold) trip to Foxborough to see some really, really good hockey.