This story was originally printed in the Endicott Observer – A student newspaper for Endicott College of Beverly Massachusetts.
Denna Laing is a Professional Hockey player for the Boston Pride in the Women’s Hockey League, as well as a Marblehead Mass. native. She also recently graduated from Princeton University.
On December 31st, Laing and her teammates prepared to play a game at Gillette Stadium on the outdoor rink, the day before the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians would play in the 8th annual Winter Classic. This game would mark the first for the WNHL.
The game started with players noticing the rink was slushy, due to the abnormally high temperatures in New England at the time. NHL players complained about the rink conditions in the warm up skate they had before the women’s game.
Nevertheless, the game went on.
Late in the first period Laing, who was just called up off the practice squad for the game, skated to the corner. She would accidentally trip on a stick and go head first into the boards. The game would come to a halt, and Laing would be stretchered off the ice and taken to Mass General.
Since there is no video from the game, it cannot be confirmed whether Laing would trip on a stick or fall because of the slushy ice conditions.
Once at Mass General Hospital, Laing was told she had a severe spinal cord injury, and had no feeling in her arms and legs at the time.
In a statement released after her injury from her parents Jerilyn and Dennis Laing, they said:
“Denna was thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League and was absolutely delighted to be one of the pioneers in a breakthrough moment for her sport – the Outdoor Women’s Classic. Tragically, Denna suffered a severe spinal cord injury playing the sport she loves.”
Now that we are a month past the injury, Laing has shown great improvements. In a video released on “The Denna Laing Team” Facebook page, the one video is split into. The one video on the left shows Laing 7 days after being admitted into rehab where she struggles to use a Vita Glide machine. This machine essentially tests your upper arm strength by pulling on two levers back and forth. Seven days after rehab, as you could imagine, Laing struggled. Now, 21 days later on February 2nd, Laing is unstoppable, showing great improvement with the machine. She is still in a wheelchair, but no longer needs as much assistance as she did 21 days ago.