The hockey world is rallying behind Boston Pride forward Denna Laing, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury Dec. 31 during the Outdoor Women’s Classic.
In Tuesday’s NHL game in Montreal between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins, the teams donned the same Winter Classic-themed jerseys they wore for the outdoor contest Jan. 1.
The jerseys are being auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Denna Laing Fund. The auction, set up by the NHL and NHLPA, closes at 9 p.m. Thursday.
“That was an awesome gesture,” teammate Cherie Hendrickson said by phone Wednesday.
Laing, 24, was injured when she went head-first into the boards after stepping on an opponent’s stick. She was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Laing’s family says she has limited movement of her arms and no feeling in her legs.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth, about ‘he said, she said’ and ice conditions and what exactly happened,” Hendrickson said. “I think we want to keep the focus on supporting her and not necessarily play the blame game for her injury.”
The Pride, who play in the National Women’s Hockey League, were playing against Les Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The first Outdoor Women’s Classic was seen as a breakthrough event for the sport.
Hendrickson was on the bench when it happened.
“She’s not the type of player to lay on the ice. So we knew it wasn’t a small injury,” her teammate said.
Laing has since been moved from the critical care unit of a local Boston hospital to a rehab centre.
“She was able to FaceTime us before practice the other night, so that was pretty cool,” Hendrickson said. “We were all excited for her to say hello. She was really upbeat. She said she missed being at practice. She’s been pretty incredible through the whole thing.”
Last week, Laing provided a Facebook update, describing the up-and-down moments she is experiencing.
“I got 2 hours of sleep and was up all night with a fever and felt terrible for the nurses who had to take care of me through the night,” she posted. “Thanks to the nurses I finally got to sleep and when I woke, this sunrise is what I saw and I was ready to start my day. The day got a little better after I passed the swallow test and I now can eat and drink whatever I want. Water has never tasted so good and neither has Dunkin.”
Since her injury, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the Bruins and Bruins Foundation announced they would donate at least $200,000 to the Denna Laing Fund to assist in her recovery and rehabilitation.
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron also stepped up, donating the use of his personal suite at TD Garden as the prize for a raffle.
There is also a website set up to raise money for her medical costs and a Facebook page has been established to rally support.
The league’s fundraising efforts got off the ground last weekend through T-shirt sales and its 2016 all-star jerseys will also be auctioned off to benefit the foundation.
The league holds its all-star weekend at Buffalo’s HarborCenter on Saturday and Sunday.
In the Boston area, Barstool Sports has raised $70,000 through T-shirt sales, with matching payments (for each $10,000 raised) from several players, including New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
The NWHL players have started a Twitter hashtag #Cards4Denna to remind fans how they can show their support to Laing.
Laing, a forward, had seen action in about half of the team’s games this season, with no points in seven games played.
The Boston Pride’s last home game at Harvard is Feb. 14 and it will be declared “Denna Laing Night” with several promotional events planned.
Her teammates would love to have Laing attend that game, but they know the odds are not good.
“We don’t know at this point,” Hendrickson said. “We don’t know and she doesn’t know. At this point, we’ll wait and see how she’s doing.”