One of the first institutions to sponsor a women’s ice hockey team, Northeastern University will once again help change the face of women’s sports this January with the playing of the first-ever outdoor women’s college hockey game. Set to take place at historic Fenway Park, the Northeastern Huskies and New Hampshire Wildcats will commence a Hockey East doubleheader on Jan. 8, 2010 that will also feature the men’s teams from Boston College and Boston University.
Two of the most successful women’s programs in history, Northeastern and New Hampshire are fitting candidates to participate in the inaugural outdoor game. The Huskies own three ECAC championships, including back-to-back titles in 1987-88 and 1988-89, at the time, the de facto national championship. Northeastern has also taken home a record 14 Beanpot titles and has produced five All-Americans, one Patty Kazmaier Award winner (Brooke Whitney) and two Humanitarian Award recipients (Chanda Gunn, Missy Elumba). The Wildcats, meanwhile, have never had a losing season in their history, accumulating five ECAC titles and each of the last four Hockey East championships.
Northeastern women’s hockey traces its roots back to 1978, a time when the sport was in its relative infancy at the collegiate level. A group of female students decided to form a club hockey team and, after hand-picking local coach Paula Dumart, set out to raise money to book ice time at the school-owned Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena). The players hosted a disco and sold candy and buttons at men’s games, but found it difficult to generate the funds necessary to skate on the same ice as the boys. That’s when men’s athletic director Joseph Zabilski stepped in and helped build a foundation for the hopeful students to pursue their dream. Zabilski proposed that if the students could get 12 girls together for a full practice, he would take care of the fees for ice time. With a new coach, a new home and the loan of a few junior varsity jerseys, the Northeastern women’s hockey program was born.
The rapid success of programs like Northeastern-- seven Beanpots and two ECAC titles in its first decade—paved the way for the sport to flourish on the national scene. Today, 35 programs skate at the Division-I level and 49 participate under Division II and III titles, making women’s hockey one of the fastest-growing collegiate sports in the nation.
The concept of outdoor hockey is also an expanding concept, only recently gaining steam in the collegiate and professional ranks. In 2001, the NCAA experimented with an outdoor men’s game between Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium, a game that drew over 70,000 spectators. The National Hockey League has also embraced the trend with its annual Winter Classic game, the third edition of which will be played at Fenway one week prior to Northeastern’s outdoor debut.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse