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CHICAGO – Fifth Third Arena will rock Saturday night as the elite women’s hockey team of the North Stars hone their skills against some of Chicago’s Finest in an exhibition game.
The two sides have met before and closed each other in a beer competition.
“The Chicago Police Department has about five teams. I don’t know how all these cops learn to play hockey, but at least they did,” said North Stars president Ali Lawrence. “It was a tough game, but it was a close and a fun game.”
This time, the showdown will have all the pomp and ceremony of a professional match: a performance of the national anthem on the ice rink, a girls’ scrimmage during intermission, raffles, silent auctions and post-match cocktails on the arena rooftop.
“We first invited a number of women’s teams because we wanted it to be a celebration of women’s hockey. I couldn’t get anyone to come out. So we went up to them and said, ‘Hey, you guys were really nice. We also want to show that we are part of the city. We want to celebrate you and you celebrate us,’” Lawrence noted. “I like the idea of tough ladies going in there and beating up a bunch of tough cops.”
“You have to expect them to get bigger, faster, stronger,” noted North Stars captain Jennifer Kelly. “We came into this competition with the idea that we are going up against the men. We have to play harder. We have to play smarter. If we then take our game back against the women, we will be ready.”
The North Stars have only been around for about a year and another tough one. The pandemic has made their mission to join the professional ranks difficult. Winning Nationals would have been a potential launch pad for the NWHL, which recently added a Midwest franchise, but the tournament was canceled due to Covid-19.
While disappointing, the North Stars persevered. They’ve expanded their player base and started training like the pros, using an off-ice program developed by Paul Goodman, Blackhawks lead strength and conditioning coach. Goodman, who has won three Stanley Cups during his 14-year career with the Hawks, is working with Ashley Johnson to implement a dryland routine at the Hawks training facility.
“I’m just facilitating his programming that I enjoy working with [the team]noted Johnson, the Goodman Elite Training women’s lead performance coach. “We’re going to train like pros here so they can act like pros on the ice.”
With the help of Johnson, Goodman, the Hawks and the Wolves, the North Stars hope to soon enter a professional league and give Chicago a women’s team to compete for.
“Whether or not we join the NWHL is another story. There’s also the PWPHA – the Professional Women’s Players Association, that’s all the Olympians that boycott the NWHL a little bit. Women’s hockey is very complicated. So we’re staying a bit neutral between those two. We want to be an independent professional women’s team. We want to stand on our own two feet, take care of ourselves, and once we get to that point, we can see where women’s hockey is and then make a choice to join a league or remain independent.”
Saturday’s scrimmage with the CPD squad is the first step. Fans can get tickets to the arena with a suggested donation of $10. The puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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