The NHL is increasing its promotion of women's hockey by adding a three-on-three game between U.S. and Canadian national team members to its All-Star festivities later this month in St. Louis..
The women's game will happen during the Jan. 24-25 weekend that showecases the top players in the NHL, according to three people with direct knowledge of the plans who discussed them Monday with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NHL isn't set to reveal its plans until later this week.
The plan to hold the three-on-three game has been in the works for months, with as many as 24 players set to participate after the final rosters were being established late last week, two of the people told AP. The game was first reported by ESPN.com.
This isn't the first time the NHL has invited female players to attend its All-Star game.
Two years ago, with Team USA training nearby in advance of the Winter Olympics, the NHL invited three American players to be on hand but not participate. Last year, four players were invited and American Kendall Coyne Schofield made a huge splash by becoming the first woman to participate in the skills event and then finished seventh in the fastest skater competition.
What's difficult to gauge is what signal the NHL might be sending by having a number of the world's top female players sharing the spotlight when women's hockey is in a state of flux.
The uncertainty arose in late March, when the six-team Canadian Women's Hockey League announced it was folding due to financial reasons after 12 seasons, leaving the U.S.-based five-team National Women's Hockey League as North America's lone professional league.
A majority of players, however, balked at making the jump to the NWHL and instead vowed to not play professionally in North America this season. Eventually, nearly 200 top players formed the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association to push for a league they say must have a sustainable economic model.