One of the most talented players to ever lace up skates with the Northeastern Huskies, Casey Pickett has carved an exceptional legacy in Boston women’s hockey. In addition to a career that saw Pickett garner the prestigious Beanpot title twice, logging over 125 points during four fantastic years with the Northeastern Huskies, she would capture the Clarkson Cup in her rookie season with the Boston Blades.
With the calendar year 2015 reaching its end, it allowed Pickett with the chance to add another exciting chapter to her proud Beantown career, subsequently making history twice. While Pickett joined her teammates from the NWHL’s Boston Pride by participating in the Women’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, the first outdoor professional women’s hockey game ever, the landmark event was not Pickett’s first game outdoors.
On January 8, 2010, Pickett (who was in her freshman year with the Huskies) was part of another landmark event in United States women’s hockey history. Coincidentally, such an event also took place in her home state of Massachusetts. Pickett and her Huskies teammates (a roster that also included current Pride player Rachel Llanes and Winter Games bronze medalist Florence Schelling) played in the first-ever outdoor game in the history of NCAA women’s hockey.
Known as Frozen Fenway (sponsored by Sun Life), the Huskies and the New Hampshire Wildcats faced off on a rink built on the outfield of iconic Fenway Park, one of baseball’s most hallowed shrines. With the baseball ghosts of Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr and Lefty Grove in the cold New England winter winds, like sentinels over the lit surface at Fenway, allowing a group of fearless, frozen females the chance to make their own history in an unprecedented event.
Scoring on goaltender Lindsey Minton for the second goal of the game, Pickett provided the Huskies, whose bench was situated on what is normally second base, with a 2-0 advantage. Although the Wildcats would score three times in the third period to capture a 5-3 victory, there was another future connection to the NWHL. Micaela Long, who would score one of the Wildcats goals in the third period, would go on to play for the Boston Blades and land a spot on the roster of the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale.
For Pickett and all players involved, Fenway became the site of a career milestone for all players involved. In later years, the women’s hockey programs for the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers hosted their own outdoor games, following the empowering legacy of Frozen Fenway.
“I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to take part in two historic women’s outdoor games. During Frozen Fenway I tried to make sure that I soaked up every minute because I never thought that I would be given a second opportunity to play on that kind of stage in that kind of historic stadium.”
Heading into the Winter Classic, it provided Pickett and her Pride teammates with a remarkable feeling of acceptance, one arriving after a long journey, which for the women of hockey was filled with remarkable hard work and sacrifice. As women’s sports continues to make a larger impact in the sporting conversation, a pre-game address was one that provided Pickett with inspiration,
“I think that the best part of the Winter Classic was Patrick Burke welcoming us "to the NHL" before we headed out to the rink. I know it sounds silly, but I think that moment was so important for women’s hockey. I grew up in a world where my dream to be a professional hockey player was unrealistic. At the Winter Classic that dream was validated for me and for all the girls who grew up dreaming of having an NHL of their own.”
Feelings of collective joy were evident among Pickett and her Pride teammates. One of seven players raised in Massachusetts on the Pride roster, so many of these players represented elite talent in the state. It was not uncommon that Pickett crossed paths with many of them, growing up together in the rink. Among the “sensational seven”, Pickett had called many of them teammates since her formative years in hockey.
Another teammate that Pickett was proud to share this landmark event with included Rachel Llanes. Like Pickett, Llanes was in her freshman year with the Huskies when the two competed in Frozen Fenway.
Since becoming teammates at Northeastern, their careers have truly run parallel. As teammates with the Huskies, the two combined for an astounding 227 points. Both graduating from the Huskies in 2013, they competed for head coach Digit Murphy with the Boston Blades, appearing in two Clarkson Cup finals (2014, 2015), hoisting the coveted trophy in 2015. It was only fitting that Llanes joined Pickett for the first professional women’s hockey outdoor event, sharing in another historic event together,
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to share that memory and all the Winter Classic memories with some of my oldest friends, including Rachel. I think there was this kind of unspoken moment with Rach and I as we took the ice — like "We can’t believe we get to do this again.
I have also been playing with Denna Laing since U10, Kelly Cooke since U11, and Jill Dempsey since U14. We grew up together and dreamed together so getting to walk onto Gillette Stadium with those three was extra special.”
Raised in Wilmington, Massachusetts, with high school hockey roots at St. Mark’s in Southborough, a highlight of the event for a jubilant Pickett was the chance to have her family in attendance. A tremendous show of support throughout her career, Pickett’s career has also proven to be a great source of inspiration for a younger member in her family, as she explains,
“I am so happy that I am local so that my Mom and Dad could both attend the game. I think I always play a bit better when they are in the stands.
My family and friends were so thrilled when I told them I was going to play in this game. I think my favorite response was from my Aunt — she sent me a picture from the game and told me that I was a great role model for my cousin, Ellie, who is a U12 hockey player in MA.”
In reflecting on the event, Pickett was impressed with the feeling of teamwork. Not only was such feeling prevalent within the Pride, as three members of the Connecticut Whale and two skaters from the New York Riveters steeped up and filled vacancies on the roster (due to US national team commitments), there was a bigger victory. As people from multiple leagues worked together in an empowering opportunity that resulted in a win-win situation for the game, it was one that allowed Pickett the privilege of being part of another milestone, resulting in a lifetime of memories,
“Honestly, I was proud of Women’s hockey in general. The NWHL, CWHL, & NHL were all able to work together to make this happen under relatively short notice. I think that says a lot about where the sport was headed. Leading into the Winter Classic I felt like there was a lot of NWHL vs. CWHL talk, but that was not the case when we were the there.
It was all about Boston vs. Montreal and the growth of Women’s Hockey. I am also very proud of how my team played — I think we represented our team, our league, and our sport very well on and off the ice. I think that at the end of the day we want to be good role models for the next generation of female players and we definitely were throughout the Winter Classic activities.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Getty Images