The NHL All-Star skills competition on Friday night had cameos from some pretty impressive women.
U.S. women’s national team forward Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star event after getting a nudge from Colorado Avalanche center Nathan McKinnon. As captain of the Central Division he suggested Schofield take his place in the fastest skater competition. She flew through the course and posted a time of 14.346, and placed 7th in a field that includes the best skaters in a world.
In addition to Schofield’s performance, the NHL also had Brianna Decker, another U.S. women’s national team player, demonstrate the passing drill at the event. Decker didn’t just demonstrate the drill, she appeared to post the best overall time (1:06) beating the eventual winner Leon Draisaitl by a full three seconds.
While there wasn’t an official timer for her drill, fans took it upon themselves to watch the clock. Once her time became clear on social media, they lobbied for Decker to receive the $25K in prize money.
Technically, because Decker wasn’t actually competing in the event (unlike Schofield) the NHL is not obligated to award her prize money. Luckily, hockey apparel company CCM stepped in.
Apparently, Decker was also unaware she beat Draisaitl until friends texted her.
On Saturday night, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that the NHL had checked Decker’s time, though no video was made available, and that she completed the drill in 1:12.
It’s unclear why the NHL waited until Saturday night to release what they say is Decker’s time. Perhaps to mitigate some of the public relations fall out, the NHL also announced Saturday night that they would donate $25K to charities chosen by the women hockey players at the event.
The All-Star weekend is supposed to be a fun event that shows off the best of the league. While they’ve made cursory efforts to promote the women’s game during the weekend, not seeing the value in paying Decker tarnishes the good will they hoped to build.
For the NHL to be true allies for women and the women’s game, they needed to do more than just pay lip service to their ideals. Including Schofield in the fastest skater competition was a great start. It would have felt more authentic if they’d also recognized Decker’s accomplishment.
For the NHL to be true allies for women and the women’s game, they needed to do more than just pay lip service to their ideals.