While the inaugural Women’s Winter Classic represented a watershed moment in the history of professional women’s hockey, its gladiators gracing the frozen surface outdoors at Gilette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, a tinge of sadness was part of the day’s events. Regardless of whether the 42,193 fans in attendance were supporters of the NWHL’s Boston Pride or the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal, there was a collective concern about the health of Denna Laing.
Despite injuries being part of any athletic endeavor, they nevertheless manage to hold a captivating and sometimes frightening impact. Sadly, the Pride forward suffered a collision in the boards during the first period of the Women’s Winter Classic.Skating behind Charline Labonte, the backstop of Les Canadiennes, Laing was hoping to build momentum as the Pride were trailing by a 1-0 margin. Trying to get possession of the puck, Laing brushed the stick of Canadiennes forward Karell Emard, crashing face first into the boards.
Laying on the boards in a prone position, trainers from both teams collaborated in an admirable effort to tend to her. After several minutes, the chill in the wind seemed even colder, as the thoughts and prayers of skaters and fans tried to restore some semblance of warmth.Postgame discussions saw head coach Bobby Jay state that ice conditions were not a factor in the injury. While Kim Deschenes of Les Canadiennes, and the Pride’s Blake Bolden scored their respective teams goals in a 1-1 final, there were concerns if Laing had any mobility issues.
Taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, it was certainly not the outcome that Laing was hoping for. Raised in Marblehead, Mass, Laing was one of several homegrown talents to skate for the Pride during their inaugural season. Like all her other Pride teammates with childhood roots to the state, it was not uncommon to have friends and family in attendance during such a milestone in their proud careers. Unfortunately, the sadness of this event was augmented by the presence of her worried parents in the stands, only adding to the agonizing feelings of concern.Removed from the ice on a stretcher, the aftermath of the game saw a remarkable outpouring of support on social media, as friends and teammates, including those from her NCAA days as a member of the Princeton Tigers unified in a strong show of encouragement.
While there is anticipation, coupled with anxiety over news of Laing’s condition, her courage and bravery are a tremendous source of inspiration. The kind of inspiration that shall make her eventual comeback one filled with happiness and empowerment.
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