A championship to cherish ‘for the rest of my life’

Watertown Middle School instructional assistant Lauren Kelly recounts road to NWHL title with the Boston Pride

Lauren Kelly of the Boston Pride (and Watertown Middle School) celebrates with the Isobel Cup after Boston beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, for the NWHL title on March 27, 2021, at Warrior Ice Arena.

Courtesy of Michelle Jay

Lauren Kelly of the Boston Pride (and Watertown Middle School) celebrates with the Isobel Cup after Boston beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, for the NWHL title on March 27, 2021, at Warrior Ice Arena.

By Katherine Schick, Watertown Middle School

“Pure joy and excitement!”

That’s how professional hockey defender and Watertown Middle School instructional assistant Lauren Kelly felt when her team, the Boston Pride, won their second National Women’s Hockey League championship on March 27 at Boston’s Warrior Ice Arena. The experience is one that Kelly will cherish “for the rest of my life.”

Lauren Kelly of the Boston Pride (right) celebrates after Boston beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, for the NWHL title on March 27, 2021, at Warrior Ice Arena. (Splash photo Courtesy of Michelle Jay)

Due to the pandemic, it was an icy road to the top. After the COVID-19 outbreak cut short the 2020 season with only one game left, the team returned to the ice “hungrier than ever” to dominate an uncertain season. The NWHL teams bubbled in Lake Placid, N.Y., facing each other at the Herb Brooks Arena — site of the legendary “Miracle On Ice” hockey game at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

It’s great to know that little girls who are just starting out in their hockey careers have a women’s professional league to aspire to play in, just like the boys”

— LAUREN KELLY

“It really does give you energy and motivation to be the best player you can be,” Kelly said.

Unfortunately, the bubble was cancelled due to COVID protocols, a heartbreaking turn of events for Kelly.
Luckily, the games were transferred to the Warrior Ice Arena in Boston — the Pride’s home turf. With a dramatic increase in confidence, the Pride beat the reigning NWHL champion Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, to win their second Isobel Cup, making them the most decorated team in the NWHL.

“Playing Minnesota this year in the finals at Warrior was a fitting way to end this crazy season,” Kelly said.

Kelly began skating at the age of 2, following in the footsteps of her older brother and sister, who also played hockey. She played for Northeastern and now balances her professional hockey career with her teaching at WMS.

Like Kelly, many of the league’s players have other jobs or are students, so the Pride trained three nights a week in Braintree and had games on the weekends. With mounting success on the ice and growing publicity, Kelly predicts that the league will be “flourishing” in time.

“Women’s hockey has gained a lot of support and momentum these past couple years, and I think it will continue to grow,” she said.

Lauren Kelly of the Boston Pride (and Watertown Middle School) celebrates with the Isobel Cup after Boston beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, for the NWHL title on March 27, 2021, at Warrior Ice Arena. (Splash photo Courtesy of Michelle Jay)

Like many of her teammates, Kelly hopes to be an inspiration to young female athletes, especially hockey players.

“It’s great to know that little girls who are just starting out in their hockey careers have a women’s professional league to aspire to play in, just like the boys,” she said.

Kelly didn’t have that experience growing up, so she finds being a role model now “a really awesome feeling.”

Kelly encourages young athletes to enjoy themselves, because she believes that sports are supposed to be fun.

“When you are older, you won’t remember every goal you scored or every game you won,” she said, “but you will always remember the memories you made with your teammates and the fun you all had together.”

The Boston Pride celebrates with the Isobel Cup after Boston beat the Minnesota Whitecaps, 4-3, for the NWHL title on March 27, 2021, at Warrior Ice Arena. (Splash photo Courtesy of Michelle Jay)

This story was originally published on Watertown Splash on April 9, 2021.