While NC State and UConn were producing the college basketball game of the year in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, professional women’s hockey was also having a blinder on its biggest night as well.
The Boston Pride beat the Connecticut Whale 4-2 in the PHF final in Florida. Boston scored two goals in 18 seconds in the third period to tie and take the lead thanks to Evalina Raselli and Taylor Wenczkowski, and added an empty-netter to seal the championship. It’s the Pride’s second straight Isobel Cup. It was a pretty bitter pill for the Whale to swallow, as they’d finished atop the PHF standings, had the best goal-difference in the league by miles, and had blitzed their way through the quarters and semis to get to the final.
Where the PHF, and its counterpart the PWHPA, go from here will be closely watched. Rumors have been circling that the PWHPA, the barnstorming band of Olympic hockey players from both Canada and the U.S. that left the PHF in a dispute over pay and conditions of the league, has gotten a hold of funding and sponsors that would allow it to set up its own league instead of just conducting barnstorming tours.
The PWHPA has pushed for the NHL to get involved to mirror the NBA’s relationship with the WNBA, and has partnerships with 10 teams. However, the NHL has refused to get involved on any higher level until the two organizations can unify, not wanting to pick a side. In reality, the NHL probably doesn’t want to be on the hook for funding anything, but that’s their cover story. As the rumors spread, the NHL asked the two sides to talk to try and find common ground, though not much has been reported to have come from those talks.
The PHF certainly isn’t making noise about backing up in any way, with plans to expand to eight teams next year and doubling the salary cap as well. That, along with providing health care, was hoped to be enough to woo the PWHPA back to the league. But with the latter reportedly securing its own funding and formation, the fear is that the pro women’s hockey scene will remain scattered.
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Women’s pro hockey has enough obstacles, the ones all women’s sports face plus the cult nature of hockey fandom. The PHF put together a great final, but the only future for both set-ups is to have the best players all in one place. Hopefully they can figure it out.
While we’re on hockey, here’s just about the dumbest way to lose a hockey game:
Coughing up this goal in the dying seconds would have been doofus enough, but the Hawks had already blown a 4-0 lead, took a 5-4 lead, and gave that away to lose 6-5 on this bit of absurdist comedy. When you blow a four-goal lead to the Sabres, this is probably the ending you deserve. The best part might be that Tage Thompson, who was credited with this winning goal, was actually skating back to the bench to get a new stick when he was informed he’d won the game.
This is how George Costanza would lose a game.
Which just goes to show you, that even on a random night between two go-nowhere teams, something truly strange can happen. And if you’re on the donkey end of it, it’ll make you question even more why you bothered at all.