CHICAGO – Fifth Third Arena will be rocking Saturday night when the North Stars elite women’s hockey team sharpens their skills against some of Chicago’s Finest in an exhibition game.
The two sides have met before, squaring off in a beer league tilt.
“The Chicago Police Department has like five teams. I don’t know how all these cops learn how to play hockey, but they definitely did,” explained North Stars president Ali Lawrence. “It was a tough game, but it was a close game and a fun game.”
This time, the showdown will have all the pomp and circumstance of a professional game – a national anthem performance on the rink, a girls only mites scrimmage at intermission, raffles, silent auctions and postgame cocktails on the rooftop of the arena.
“We invited a bunch of women’s teams first because we wanted it to be a celebration of women’s hockey. Couldn’t get anyone to come out. So, we went to them and were like, ‘hey, you guys were really, really fun. Also, we want to show that we’re a part of the city. We want to celebrate you guys and you celebrate us,'” Lawrence noted. “I kind of like the idea of tough ladies going in there and beating up a bunch of burly policemen.”
“You have to expect that they’re going to bigger, faster, stronger,” remarked North Stars captain Jennifer Kelly. “We came into this league thinking, we’re going up against the men. We have to play harder. We have to play smarter. Then, when we take our game back against the women, we’ll be ready.”
The North Stars have only been around a year and a rough one at that. The pandemic has made their mission to join the professional ranks difficult. Winning Nationals would have been a potential launch pad to the NWHL, which recently added a Midwest franchise, but the tournament was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Though disappointing, the North Stars have persevered. They’ve expanded their player base and started to train like the pros, using an off ice program developed by Blackhawks head strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman. Goodman, who has won three Stanley Cups during his 14-year run with the Hawks, works in concert with Ashley Johnson to implement a dryland routine at the Hawks training facility.
“I just facilitate his programming I love working with [the team],” noted Johnson, the Goodman Elite Training head women’s performance coach. “We’re going to train like pros in here so they can act like pros out on the ice.”
With the help of Johnson, Goodman, the Hawks and the Wolves, the North Stars hope to catch on with a professional league soon and give Chicago a women’s team to root for.
“Whether or not we’re going to join the NWHL is another story. There’s also the PWPHA – the Professional Women’s Players Association, which is all the Olympians who are kind of boycotting the NWHL. Women’s hockey is very complicated. So, we’re kind of staying neutral between the two of those. We want to be an independent professional women’s team. We want to stand on our own feet, be able to take care of ourselves, and once we get to that point, we can see where women’s hockey stands and then make a choice to join a league or stay independent.”
Saturday’s scrimmage with the CPD squad is the first step. Fans can get tickets at the arena with a suggested donation of $10. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 pm.