ELMONT, NY – Ella Shelton is thrilled that the PWHL finally is providing the top women’s players similar world-class opportunities as the men have had for decades in the NHL.
That includes her New York team playing some of its home games here at UBS Arena, where the New York Islanders also reside.
But there’s one rule the All-Star defenseman absolutely does not want to see the women’s game follow that of their male counterparts. That’s allowing players to go without face protection.
And Shelton has a pretty simple reason for that.
“Personally, I like the cage. I like to keep all of my teeth in the slot where they’re supposed to be in,” Shelton said with a laugh when asked about the PWHL rule mandating that all players have face coverage.
“I spent a little too much money on them to keep them straight, so I think I’ll try and keep them as straight as possible from here on out.”
PWHL rules stipulate that players must have face protection
PWHL senior vice president of hockey operations Jayna Hefford has been steadfast to not allow PWHL players to ditch face protection. So, even though it might be more difficult to market their stars behind cages and full shields, Hefford and the League believe mandatory face protection are in the best interests of their biggest assets, as well.
“Especially with our game becoming a little more physical, I think that the protection piece is key so that we don’t see too many injuries,” Shelton explained.
You can count Shelton’s teammate Micah Zandee-Hart as one who prefers the status quo when it comes to face protection in the women’s game.
“I personally want to wear face coverage always,” New York’s captain said. “I don’t want to deal with face injuries, which obviously you see a lot in the NHL.”
Perhaps the best case supporting the PWHL face-protection rule comes from the League’s leading scorer, New York forward Alex Carpenter.
“We all grew up playing with cages and just how girls are on the ice, sticks get a little high and you could get a stick to the face,” Carpenter explained. “I think we’re used to not having that awareness, like the guys do. I think [men] are very cautious of that knowing that most guys don’t have a full cage on and if I get my stick too high I might hit them in the face.
“I think if women just wore visors, there’d be a lot more high-sticking penalties and a lot more injuries in that regard.”
Carpenter and Shelton continue to thrive in the pro game just as they’ve done on the international stage so far in the inaugural season of the PWHL.
A two-time Olympic silver medalist (2014, 2022) for the United States, Carpenter has nine points (three goals, six assists) and scored points in six of eight games this season. Shelton, who helped Canada win gold at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, leads all PWHL defensemen with eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight games.
Shelton and Carpenter will be on opposing teams when they take part in the PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase this Thursday at the 2024 NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto.
“It’s going to be really special, “ Carpenter said. “I’m not excited to play against Ella, that’s my only thing! I like it better when she’s on my team.”