When the announcement about the New Jersey Devils entering into a partnership with the National Women’s Hockey League and the soon-to-be Metropolitan Riveters came down last week, it was a great moment for women’s hockey.
The Devils organization is going to offer marketing support, facilities, financial backing and even a double-header with the NHL club to jumpstart women’s hockey in the Tri-State Area, and it got me thinking: why haven’t the Bruins done something like this?
It’s not just that Jeremy Jacobs is a billionaire and could easily afford to inject some money into the deserving women’s leagues; instead, the Bruins are in the unique position of having the facilities, the capital and the local interest to seriously boost the women’s game.
The question many will undoubtedly ask is, of course, why bother?
The answer is kind of simple: as one of the NHL’s flagship teams and as a franchise that has profited immensely from the hockey-mad fans of New England, it’s the right thing to do.
The NWHL and its (kind of) rival, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, aren’t charity cases, and undoubtedly aren’t seeking pity parties. To say that the Bruins should support the league isn’t to say that these entities are hopeless without the NHL’s help.
Both leagues are making headway, obtaining sponsorships from major brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and earning the partnership with major organizations like the Devils.
However, the women’s game has struggled to gain support from its older brother, for lack of a better term. The NHL (kind of) shared the spotlight with the women’s game at the Winter Classic in Foxboro. It (kind of) tried to boost the game with its Declaration of Principles.
The (kind of’s) up there represent the lukewarm level of support the women’s game has gotten from the NHL. Neither league is featured anywhere on the NHL’s website. The NHL rarely boosts the women’s game on social media.
The response to thoughts like these is fair, if not a little predictable: “why should they do anything? It’s not like it’s the NHL’s league.”
True, and that’s kind of the problem: the NHL wasn’t doing much to offer the women’s game a way to grow, and these two leagues picked up the slack.
And as the global steward of the game of ice hockey, the NHL should take the initiative to use its considerable soapbox to help grow the sport for women. It’s hard to put that in a way that doesn’t seem preachy, but that’s the way it is: it’s the right thing to do.
This brings us back to the Bruins.
The Jacobs family is great to the community in Boston (notwithstanding whatever that issue was with the failed donations stemming back to Garden construction). They do a lot for sick children, struggling families and deserving organizations.
Why not take the next step and give back to the sport that’s been so good to them by expanding the opportunities afforded to women players?
The Bruins are a perfect team to offer a partnership like this for a number of reasons:
- Boston is well represented in the pro women’s game With teams in the CWHL and NWHL, Boston is a well-regarded city when it comes to professional women’s hockey. Stars like Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin and Alex Carpenter call Boston home professionally. With some of the best-known women’s players already in the city, the Bruins would have a head start when it comes to marketing the women’s game.
- The Bruins have all of the facilities Jeremy Jacobs is a smart man, and knows it’s better to own than to rent. By virtue of owning the TD Garden, the Bruins would be able to host women’s league games with less overhead. They could follow the Devils’ lead and host doubleheaders, cutting down on the costs of getting the facility up and running on an off day. The Bruins have considerable sway at Warrior Ice Arena as well, and would certainly be able to get ice time for the women’s teams (in fact, the Boston Pride already use Warrior regularly). It’s not like adding some time at their own facilities would put the Bruins out.
- The Bruins have the network NESN is jointly owned by the Red Sox and Jacobs’ Delaware North group, giving them easy access to an outlet that can broadcast these games. NESN has already shown a few women’s hockey games in the past, making it clear that is has the technical ability to do so. Aside from the actual TV network, games could be streamed on NESN.com, replacing whatever clickbait posts from Zergnet fill that site currently. It’s not a stretch to say that New England hockey fans would rather watch live women’s hockey games than watch Dirty Water TV visit Strega Waterfront for the 34th time.
- Massachusetts is a hotbed for women’s hockey Aside from Minnesota, Massachusetts is arguably the most hockey-blooded state in the country. It’s no different for the women’s game. Along with the two pro teams, Massachusetts boasts powerhouse women’s programs at schools like Boston College and Boston University. The women’s game is also popular among young women: in USA Hockey’s 2015-2016 report, Massachusetts had the second-highest number of registered women hockey players with 10,527 (Minnesota was first with just over 13,000). Growing up in Massachusetts, you see as many girls stumbling sleepy-eyed out of minivans wearing full gear with their sneakers as you see boys. The Bruins wouldn’t be creating a new market so much as they’d be tapping into an existing one.
It’s easy to see what the Bruins have to offer, but this is a business: what do the Bruins have to gain?
Aside from the cache that comes with being a pioneer in growing the women’s game, the Bruins’ would likely create a number of new fans for themselves.
Partnering with the women’s pro leagues could bring about things like learn-to-skate clinics for young girls, which could introduce new people to the game who otherwise might have avoided it.
After all, everyone says the key with hockey is to see it or try it once and you’re hooked, right?
By growing and diversifying their fanbase, the Bruins could also benefit from additional sponsorship or marketing opportunities, effectively helping their bottom line.
Aside from the money, it seems like a no-brainer: unless the NHL is planning on starting its own women’s league, why not use its stature to support the women’s leagues and create new hockey fans in the process?
And yes, it’s easy for me to say “who cares about the money?” when it’s not mine.
But hockey has been good to the Jacobs family. Some financial backing and a little marketing support seems like a small price to pay to give that goodness right back.