CALGARY (CityNews) – A battle is taking place at the Saddledome but it’s not between the Flames and the Oilers.
The Crowchild Classic pits the Mount Royal University Cougars against the University of Calgary Dinos, but instead of the men taking to the prime time slot, it will be the women taking to centre ice and centre stage.
“No longer are they the opening show they are the main event,” said 660 NEWS Sports Anchor Sandra Prusina.
“It’s definitely a new experience for all of us no matter how many you’ve played in. If it’s your first, fourth, it’s a new experience,” said Anna Purschke, forward for MRU.
NEW SERIES: Women in Sport
“It’s huge for women’s hockey. I think the 26 of us are very lucky to be apart of it.”
We all know prime ice time is a coveted thing, and for the first time in the history of this game, the women will be the main draw–marking a big step for equality in the sport.
“That’s what they deserve. They’re fighting for more visibility, more eyeballs on the sport,” added Prusina.
There has been a renewed cry for more visibility in women’s hockey, which has been even more fierce after the CWHL folded last year. Many are saying there needs to be a conscious effort to display the sport and provide female athletes with the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
“For us to have even a small part in that and encourage little girls when maybe they’re coming to watch us play tonight–and maybe that makes them think, ‘hey I can do this, I can play this sport, and I matter too as an athlete,'” said MRU defender Daria O’Neil.
Positive signs of moving forward have been seen with the help of the NHL. “We saw the NHL last weekend supporting the best players in our sport at the all-star weekend,” added O’Neil.
During the NHL’s skills competition players from Canada and the U.S. took part in a 3-on-3 game. Following the game Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight squared off against Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk and a couple other NHL stars in the Shooting Stars contest. Poulin edged out her American counterpart by a point and finished fourth behind Tkachuk, Mitch Marner, and the winner Patrick Kane.
“I think that forced everybody to take notice and say, ‘listen, we need to pay attention to the women’s game,'” said Prusina
“To have them centre stage perhaps setting an attendance record is one of those steps forward and hopefully for those girls playing (Thursday) in a year or two, maybe they’ll have a professional league to play in.”
While there is still no professional women’s hockey league in Canada, women’s sports has seen recent milestones. The WNBA announced a record breaking salary deal and Christine Sinclair just became the highest scoring international soccer player in both men’s and women’s soccer.
The Dinos will be looking to continue their reign of the Saddledome having won the last two women’s games, and last four men’s games, three of which have gone to overtime.
Puck drop for the Crowchild Classic is 4 p.m. for the men, with the women to follow at 6:45.