Dempsey Emerges as the Face of Women’s Pro Hockey

Winthrop is already home to the greatest Olympic hockey captain. Mike Eruzione scored a very big goal for the 1980 U.S.A. team, the sports moment of the 20th century according to Sports Illustrated.

Why not the home to greatest and most successful women’s professional hockey player of the past decade? Could that be Winthropite Jillian Dempsey?

Yes, it is. Everyone believes Dempsey is the face of women’s professional hockey in the United States. Except the humble Harvard hockey hero herself.

Dempsey, a teacher at the Arthur T. Cummings Elementary School, just made some neat hockey history as the captain of the Boston Pride team in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

The Pride won the Isobel Cup on national television with close to a million people watching the games on NBC-TV. With Dempsey as the captain and center on the No. 1 line, Boston defeated the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, in the championship game at Warrior Arena in Brighton. It was Dempsey’s second Isobel Cup during an amazing pro career that has seen her win scoring titles, MVP awards, and an All-Star accuracy competition in a time that may never be duplicated.

“It feels incredible to win the Cup,” said Dempsey. “This time around it really felt like a storybook ending for us, after struggling earlier in the season and with it being such a condensed season where every game mattered much, much more – for us to be resilient from the tough start that we had in Lake Placid, and upset Toronto and have the championship game that we were destined to play after last year (the 2020 game was canceled due to the pandemic), it’s just on-top-of-the world, over the moon about it.”

The reason Dempsey is finally gaining the notice as the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey is the case of being seen on national television and the future prospect of even greater visibility next season.

“It’s the most visibility that the league has gotten in my time playing,” said Dempsey, a charter member of the NWHL. “Minus the Olympics, I haven’t seen women’s hockey get that kind of visibility, so it was just an incredible opportunity for us to be on NBC and reach that audience.”

The Pride’s No. 1 fan, Jillian’s father, Jack Dempsey, was among those watching on national television. Normally, Mr. Dempsey would have been viewing the game from his customary spot in the arena, but there were COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“My dad is usually always in his spot in the offensive corner, so it was strange not to have him there and some of the other familiar faces,” said Dempsey.

As the captain of the Pride, Dempsey was first to hold aloft the Isobel Cup. She and fellow Winthrop resident and Pride assistant captain McKenna Brand, and their teammates shared the Cup in a golden photo opportunity with Mike Eruzione on Bowdoin Street.

Dempsey hopes to bring the foremost trophy in women’s hockey to the Cummings School. “I want to share it with my students,” said Dempsey. “Whenever I get a little extended time with the Cup, I hope to come up with a plan for that. I’m looking forward to it.”

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