Sunday, 13 December 2015

NWHL secures first corporate sponsorship with Dunkin Donuts

As momentum continues to build for the NWHL, the announcement of its first corporate sponsor sends a strong message that the future continues to be a bright one. Canton, Massachusetts-based Dunkin Donuts gains such a unique distinction, adding to its proud support of sport in New England, which has also seen its logo at Boston Red Sox home games and press conferences.

With Dunkin Donuts becoming the official iced, hot and frozen coffee of the NWHL, there is no question that many of its players must feel an emotional connection to the brand. For many members of Boston Pride and players in other markets that were raised in Massachusetts, their parents likely sipped Dunkin Donuts coffee while sitting in the stands at their junior hockey games.

In a press conference held at the TD Garden, home to the NHL’s Boston Bruins and NBA’s Boston Celtics, league commissioner and founder Dani Rylan flashed a proud smile, while garbed in a Connecticut Whale jersey. Joining her were a jubilant Brianna Decker and Gigi Marvin from the Boston Pride, who would later take to the Garden Ice for a youth clinic with three Boston-area teams.

Also on hand was one of the most famous women’s hockey players from Massachusetts. Having served as Team USA’s captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Danvers-raised Meghan Duggan was donned in her Buffalo Beauts jersey. Coincidentally, she was holding a cup of coffee at the press conference, having signed a personal services contract with Dunkin Donuts.

One of the most unique aspects of the press conference was the fact that all jerseys now have Dunkin Donuts patches on them, signifying the importance of their sponsorship. Tom Manchester, the VP of Field Marketing was photographed in a New York Riveters jersey, ensuring that all four of the league’s jerseys were featured at the press conference.

Considering that Rylan also serves as the general manager for the Riveters, it may have come to a surprise as some fans to see her wearing the Whale jersey. Perhaps Manchester should have donned the Whale jersey instead, although there is no question that the Whale colors complement Rylan.  

The presence of such a leading national brand as Dunkin Donuts is an important one for the league, representing more than just a key milestone. Quite possibly, Dunkin can also serve as a vehicle for merchandising and/or promotion. Taking into account that Tim Horton’s issued NHL hockey cards in 2015, it would be a remarkable feat if Dunkin could distribute NWHL women’s hockey cards, helping contribute to a strong connection for NWHL fans.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Many new faces part of CWHL's second All-Star Game

With the recent announcement that the second CWHL All-Star Game shall be held once again at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, it will be a much different game compared to the inaugural edition. Missing from this game will be two of the CWHL co-founders, Sami Jo Small and Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux.

Both competed in the first CWHL All-Star Game, and were the top picks overall in the CWHL All-Star Frozen Fantasy Draft. Small recently gave birth to a baby girl while Breton-Lebreux had made the transition to coaching. As a side note, co-founder Jennifer Botterill was part of the broadcast team for Sportsnet, who aired the game.

As the puck drop is scheduled to take place on January 23, 2016, meaning that no All-Star Game was held during the calendar year of 2015, a total of 34 players were named. Les Canadiennes de Montreal lead the way with nine players named. Following close behind are the Calgary Inferno with eight and seven from the Brampton Thunder. The host franchise Toronto Furies see six players involved while the last-place Boston Blades bring four to the All-Star Game.

In comparison to the inaugural game, which saw six goaltenders participate, including at least one from each team, the second game shall feature only four goaltenders between the pipes. Each goaltender is a repeat player from last year’s All-Star Game, headlined by Charline Labonte of Les Canadiennes de Montreal, who was also the captain for Team Red.

Joining her are Delayne Brian of the Calgary Inferno (the recipient of the 2014 CWHL Goaltender of the Year), Christina Kessler of the Toronto Furies (credited with the first loss in CWHL All-Star Game history) and Boston Blades backstop Genevieve Lacasse. Brampton’s goaltender Erica Howe, who won the inaugural All-Star Game was not named.

Instead, Brampton sends four blueliners to the second All-Star Game. Brampton captain Jocelyne Larocque leads a group that includes Courtney Birchard (who was selected for the first All-Star Game but could not play), Laura Fortino and Sarah Edney, the first overall pick in the 2015 CWHL Draft.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal sends three blueliners (Cathy Chartrand, Julie Chu and Lauriane Rougeau) to the event, while Boston Blades captain Tara Watchorn is joined by Dru Burns, one of six blueliners making her debut at the All-Star Game. Of the two Furies members that round out the defense, it represents an exciting new chapter in All-Star Game history.

Hailing from Hokkaido, Furies blueliner Sena Suzuki (who appeared at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games) is not only the first player of Japanese heritage to be named to an All-Star Game, she is also the first international player to participate. Of note, there was not one European player or any other international competitor that participated in the inaugural edition of the event.

The biggest change will be at the forward position. Of the 18 players participating, including Jessica Campbell, who was the captain for Team White at the inaugural game, 11 are making their All-Star Game debuts. Among said 11, six are part of the CWHL’s rookie class, including Boston’s Kristina Brown, the only Blades forward named, Montreal’s Katia Clement-Heydra, Emily Fulton, the Furies first-round pick in 2015, Brianne Jenner, a fellow first-round pick who is also Calgary’s captain along with Calgary teammates Jillian Saulnier and Elana Lovell, who was the CWHL’s leading scorer at the time of the announcement. 

Other forwards making their All-Star Game debut include members of Les Canadiennes Kim Deschenes and Marie-Philip Poulin, the first-ever winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year Award. Candice Styles, one of three Brampton forwards at the event is joined by Furies forward Kelly Terry and living legend Hayley Wickenheiser from the Calgary Inferno (who played at the ACC back in 2000 with Team Canada), adding another notable chapter to her remarkable hockey legacy. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Buffalo Beauts gain first win in franchise history

After starting their inaugural season with five losses, the Buffalo Beauts have bounced back with their first win in franchise history. Momentum was definitely poised to change after experiences two straight one-goal losses.
Considering that both losses came against the Connecticut Whale, the NWHL’s only undefeated team, it sent a powerful message that the Beauts could not be taken for granted. Of note, their second one-goal loss to the Whale may have served as the team’s turning point.

Facing a 5-1 deficit after the first period, the Whale scored early in the second for a 6-1 advantage. Undeterred, the Beauts scored five unanswered goals to tie the game and force a shootout, the first in NWHL history.
Closing the month of November with a road match against the New York Riveters, fresh off a two-game win streak, it was the Beauts’ turn to place their names in the win column.

Although the Beauts outshoot the Riveters by an 8-6 margin, it was defined by a defensive stalemate that saw neither team score. At the 6:35 mark in the first, Meghan Fardelmann was called for tripping, providing the Beauts with the first power play opportunity of the game. Despite their best efforts, the Riveters nullified the advantage.
While both teams each enjoyed power play opportunities in the second, the first goal of the game was scored at even strength. Madison Packer scored at the 14:32 mark, with Celeste Brown earning the assist, for the early lead.

Heading into the third period, the Beauts would pepper the Riveters with 16 shots and the results showed on the scoreboard. At the 8:15 mark, Devon Skeats would provide the Beauts with their first goal, snapping Nana Fujimoto’s bid for the first shutout in Riveters history.
Less than four minutes after scoring, Skeats would add her second goal of the game, as Shelby Bram earned the assist. As the goal would eventually stand as the game-winner, it placed Skeats in rarified air, as she became the first player in Beauts history to score a game-winning goal.

The combination of Skeats and Bram would result in the second time both combined to make Beauts franchise history. On November 15, Skeats became the first Canadian to score a goal in Beauts history. Coincidentally, Bram would also earn the assist on the goal.
Before the period would expire, Hailey Browne would score another historic goal. With just seven seconds remaining, the Maine Black Bears alum would make her mark by scoring the first-ever empty net goal in Beauts history.

For her efforts, Skeats was recognized as the First Star of the Game. Brianne McLaughlin, who recently earned a gold medal with Team USA at the Four Nations Cup, earned the first goatlending win in Beauts history. Making 27 saves in the 3-1 final, Second Star honors were bestowed upon McLaughlin. Third star recognition went to Madison Packer, who scored the Riveters only goal. As a side note, goaltender Jenny Scrivens (who appeared in the first season of W Network’s series Hockey Wives) made her NWHL debut, replacing Fujimoto in the third period. Logging 4:32 of ice time, Scrivens made four saves.