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Coyotes, women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour to hold event in Arizona

The Canadian All-Stars celebrate against the American All-Stars in the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 presented by adidas during the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Dream Gap Tour, a series of exhibition games featuring some of the world’s best women’s hockey players, is coming to Tempe, Ariz., in March.

Games will be played on March 6, 7 and 8 at Oceanside Ice Arena, the home of Sun Devil Hockey. The third game will have the women facing off against Coyotes alumni, including Shane Doan, while the other two games will have two teams comprised of players from the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Assocation (PWHPA).

Among the players competing in the exhibition games will be Kendall Coyne, Marie-Philip Poulin, Brianna Decker, Ann-Renee Desbiens, Scottsdale natives Katie McGovern and Makenna Newkirk, and Amanda Kessel, who is an accomplished player in her own right and also happens to be the sister of Coyotes forward Phil Kessel.

“I had never been to Arizona until this year, so I’m super excited,” Amanda Kessel said. “But I didn’t expect the crowds and people to be really that into hockey. I was actually very surprised. Like I always heard that there wasn’t great turnout, but it seemed like it was a great environment and people love hockey there and are super supportive. So we’re just looking to grow the women’s game there as well.”

The schedule is as follows:

Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. — Team Newkirk vs Team McGovern
Saturday, March 7 at 3:00 p.m. — Team Newkirk vs Team McGovern
Sunday, March 8 at 12:30 p.m. — PWHPA Stars vs Coyotes Alumni

Arizona is not the first such stop of the Dream Gap Tour, which did not have a pre-determined set of dates and locations but instead is routinely adding new events.

“It’s an opportunity for these women to go around North America and showcase their product,” said Lyndsey Fry, a former Olympian who is now a marketing strategist with the Coyotes. “They have about 150 women and maybe more, collectively, that make up the PA. So they will bring 40 to 60 women to an event, they’ll play games against each other.

“So they’ve been in Toronto, they’ve been to Montreal, they’ve been to Philadelphia, the been to Chicago, San Jose. And now they’re coming here. so they’ve been around and we were super fortunate, because its kind of first come, first serve, as far as who from the PA signs up for each event. Being Arizona in March, we are getting like the cream of the crop as far as the rosters are concerned.”

Many of the players coming to Arizona are the same ones who competed at the NHL All-Star skills competition this year in the first-ever Women’s Elite 3-on-3 hockey game.

“I think that’s super important for those women to get exposure at that level, mainly because if we were ever going to have a viable league, we need to get more than just women’s hockey fans in the building,” Fry said.

“We need to get the masses of hockey fans, and that’s the NHL fan base. And so I think it’s super important for the women to be out there in front of NHL fans’ eyes so that they can see, ‘Wow, that men’s game that I watched was pretty good, but I’m not really seeing a huge difference here in the women’s game.’ And I think that’s what we’re trying to do is they’re trying to show these guys that, look, women’s hockey isn’t what it was 20 years ago when maybe your sister tried it. Women’s hockey now is a high-level, extremely competitive game that’s fast, fun and exciting, and ultimately we need just more and more people to be exposed to that and understand that and be willing to buy that.”

One of the goals of this event is to generate excitement around the women’s game to help the effort of eventually getting a women’s professional league in place. But another goal is to inspire young girls and make them feel that becoming a professional hockey player isn’t a dream that’s exclusive to boys only.

The namesake of the two teams, Team Newkirk and Team McGovern, comes from two local players, aforementioned above. Newkirk and McGovern are both from Scottsdale. They sat down and selected rosters from the pool of players who agreed to play in the Arizona event.

If you missed out on the chance to see these elite women’s hockey players in person at this year’s NHL All-Star weekend, they’ll be in Arizona soon enough.

“It’s really just an event that will not come around every year,” Fry said.

Tickets start at $30 and are available at Rosters can be found here. Premier ticket packages include a ticket to a Coyotes gala with the PWHPA players on March 7, and that includes dinner and meet & greets. Proceeds benefit the PWHPA and the Arizona Kachinas Girls Hockey Association.

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