Boston was the first American city to house an NHL team with the inception of the Bruins in 1924. It has more recently made the still-fledgling Canadian Women’s Hockey League a multinational circuit with the arrival of the Blades two years ago.
That is a double distinction that the tradition-laden Bruins franchise and its collective regional fanbase must not take for granted. With the CWHL, business-wise, still striding along the ice like a young Bambi, there is no guarantee this league will be the one that finally cements the pegs of women’s hockey as a steady profession.
The Blades can embolden those hopes by establishing a more prominent presence in the public eye and blazing a trail for more U.S.-based teams. The Bruins can help by reaching out and sharing some of their wealth in every sense of the word.
Two NHL franchises on the other side of the border are already doing just that. A report this week from the Canadian Press detailed the Calgary Flames’ and Toronto Maple Leafs’ pledges to help their respective CWHL counterparts, Alberta and the Toronto Furies.
Besides giving as much of $30,000 over a five-year period, the report stated, “The Leafs have made the Air Canada Centre available for Saturday’s game between the Furies and Alberta.”
The report later notes, “The Leafs intend to market the Furies on their website, at home games and on Leafs TV.”
By all accounts, the patriarchal franchise in one of the continent’s most puck-crazed markets is going above and beyond to help an underprivileged sector of the sport in a most exemplary manner. Second in that push is the team that shares a region with the lone CWHL team currently based outside of the Eastern Time Zone.
Because it is currently the only market in America to include a CWHL franchise, Boston needs to be the next to step up. All of the marketing supplies are there but could use a recognizable set of hands to turn up the power.
Nearly half of the 2010 U.S. Women’s Olympic team came from a New England hometown and/or college. Eight current members of the Blades helped the Americans to gold at the Four Nations Cup this past week.
One member of both teams, Karen Thatcher, was the female recipient of the 2002 John Carlton Award, given by the Bruins to an outstanding Massachusetts scholastic player in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions.
Exactly 20 percent (or 14 out of 35) of the current NCAA’s Division I women’s teams are based in New England, with at least one program in each of the six states.
The Boston University women’s program boasts a young Canadian hero in Marie-Philip Poulin, who single-handedly outscored the U.S. in the 2010 gold medal game six months before her orientation. Northeastern University has a hopeful first-time Olympian for 2014 in sensational sophomore Kendall Coyne.
Those are just two of many players who deserve to extend their profiles after their collegiate days are over. Contrary to basic moral logic, they, along with the world-class talent on the Blades and their four Canadian rivals, cannot subsist on self-promotion alone.
Right now, the future of the nominally professional CWHL, as well as Olympic tournaments beyond the 2014 Sochi Games, is unknown.
The Leafs and the Flames are doing their part to shore up hope, at least in the former department, which is arguably more important.
The Bruins can do the same by showcasing the Blades at TD Garden and on the New England Sports Network, both in the form of occasional games in the venue and on the network and of advertisements on the TV screen and Jumbotron.
Besides the obvious virtue of generous assistance to others, such initiatives can be beneficial for the Bruins, who, like all NHL franchises, will have a reputation to repair once the ongoing lockout is over.
Any move that grows the game at any level for either gender can only expand hockey interest. In turn, there will be more individuals establishing or elevating their interest in the local NHL team, as well as whoever they might be helping and associating with.
With the lockout, long-time Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is inexplicably taking the thick ice cube of positive publicity he garnered along with a Stanley Cup last year and letting it sit too close to the fireplace. He, along with the franchise he represents, will have amends to make once normalcy is restored.
One way to do that is to approve a measure that emulates what has happened in Calgary and Toronto—to verify that the Bruins care not only about who supports them, but who also might support the women’s game in New England and elsewhere.