One of the most accomplished goaltenders in the flourishing history of the NWHL, Brittany Ott continues to make her mark in league lore. With the 2018 edition of the NWHL All-Star Game hosted in Saint Paul, Minnesota, it served as affirmation of Ott’s stature as one of the league’s first legends.
Balancing her on-ice obligations with an admirable off-ice career as an EMT, undoubtedly, Ott is a real-life superhero, her presence contributing to such sensational standing for women in hockey as icons in bloom. Prior to this season’s opening faceoff, Ott’s impact was also felt in her home state of Michigan, where she starred for Lakeview High School and the Little Caesar’s U19 program.
With the launching of a significant initiative to explore the viability of universities adding ice hockey competition to their athletic calendars, Ott was part of a panel on-hand at Little Caesar’s Arena, home of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, discussing a viability study for Oakland University. Joined on said panel by the likes of OU athletic director Jeff Konya, Chris Campoli of the NHLPA and Ken Holland, General Manager of the Red Wings, Ott’s involvement was testament to the positive presence of women in hockey. Such a presence is also enhanced by Kim Durka, who serves as the Executive VP of the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association.
Having stood between the pipes for the Boston Pride since their inaugural season (2015-16), Ott’s rise to prominence has run parallel to the expanding impact of women’s ice hockey players as true major league athletes. During that magical campaign, Ott not only backstopped the Pride to the inaugural Isobel Cup, making her the first goaltender to hoist both the Isobel and Clarkson Cups, she was recognized as the league’s recipient of the inaugural Goaltender of the Year Award.
Also gaining the start for the Pride in the Women’s Winter Classic on December 31, 2015 at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, the first professional outdoor game in women’s hockey history, it capped off an eventful month. Just a few weeks earlier, the Pride journeyed to the Midwest for a two-game series against the Minnesota Whitecaps, resulting in the first-ever professional women’s hockey event in the State of Hockey.
Although it could not have been foreseen at the time, such an event proved to be prologue for several players on both the Pride and the Whitecaps, including Ott, as another majestic milestone was destined to follow. With the NWHL hosting an All-Star event in a neutral site for the second consecutive year, (Pittsburgh served as the venue in 2017), the setting in Saint Paul for the 2018 mid-season classic certainly helped to bring these storied careers full circle.
Fittingly, the Whitecaps were once again involved in this key event for the professional female game in the State of Hockey, a genuine gesture of class on the part of the NWHL, paying homage to their prominence. Winny Brodt-Brown, an inaugural member of the Whitecaps served as one of the All-Star coaches. In addition, Sadie Lundquist, who has also competed in Red Bull Crashed Ice, was the Whitecaps skater who called Ott a teammate on this day, while Jordyn Burns joined the opposing team.
Other Pride players who joined Ott on this fascinating return to Minnesota as All-Stars included Jillian Dempsey, who was bestowed the honor of the Pride captaincy to begin the 2017-18 season. Boston College Eagles alum Emily Field, hockey humanitarian Alyssa Gagliardi who has been instrumental in the club’s numerous Do It for Daron fundraisers, along with the cerebral Jordan Smelker, whose employment off the ice is in the role of an engineer.
Adding sheen to Ott’s experience as a 2018 All-Star was the fact that she would make history twice. From the outset, Ott and Amanda Leveille of the Buffalo Beauts were the first two goaltenders to win the Isobel Cup, both recognized with the prestige of the All-Star captaincy in Saint Paul. As a side note, both were recognized as the NWHL’s Co-Players of the Week for the week of January 29.
Becoming the first goaltenders to serve as captains in the mid-season classic, Ott is also an alternate captain during the regular season for the Pride. Enhancing the feeling of history on this monumental day was the fact that Ott became the first player in NWHL history to compete in the first three NWHL All-Star Games.
Pride teammates joining her on Team Ott included Gagliardi (who was also recognized as an All-Star in a Canadian-based league), Dempsey, Field and Smelker. Worth noting, Corinne Buie, a member of the Pride’s Isobel Cup championship team in 2016 was reunited with her former teammates, adorned in the Team Ott jersey. As a side note, usual Pride teammates such as Lexi Bender and Meagan Mangene were part of the opposition on this day, aligned with Team Leveille.
Paired with Sydney Rossman of the Connecticut Whale, while Katie Fitzgerald, the recipient of the 2017 NWHL Goaltender of the Year Award suited up for Team Leveille, the showcase of goaltending talent on display was on a par with the quality of world-class goaltending on hand at the Winter Games.
Although Rossman would be credited with the victory, an 8-6 final in Team Ott’s favor, it was an event where the hockey world truly caught up to Ott, recognizing her invaluable contributions to the NWHL’s unfolding narrative, while establishing her as truly one of the great (and perhaps sometimes underrated) superstar goaltenders of her generation.
Hayley Scamurra from the defending Isobel Cup champion Buffalo Beauts scored thrice, garnering co-MVP honors, while Alexa Gruschow of the rival Riveters scored twice. Boston pride was truly integral on this day, as current Beauts star, and Pride charter member, Corinne Buie scored twice, while current Pride skater Smelker recorded a goal and assist. Amanda Boulier of the Whale also recorded a two-point effort, providing Ott with a fitting win, honoring her All-Star legacy with a celebrated victory.
Playing for head coach Tricia Dunn-Luoma, it provided an element of prestige for Ott and her teammates. As this year marked the 20th anniversary of the Nagano Winter Games, in which the US captured the first gold in women’s ice hockey, Dunn-Luoma was part of that gold medal winning roster.
Coincidentally, Ott made the sojourn to Pyeongchang following the All-Star Game to see her Pride teammates, such as Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Gigi Marvin, in action with Team USA at the 2018 Winter Games, enriching the sense of teamwork and belonging that defines the culture of both the Pride and the NWHL. Serendipitously, the US contingent there captured the gold once again, the first for the proud Americans since 1998, Ott serving as a unique conduit in which she was part of a unique connection to both generations of golden greats in a fascinating span.
All images obtained from Facebook