Boston Pride’s Jillian Dempsey ready for 2019 NWHL All-Star Game: ‘I’m so excited’
That work ethic has made Dempsey one of the best defensive centers in professional women’s hockey. As you might expect, her teammates notice how hard she works when she doesn’t have the puck.“She’s really crafty and hard-nosed,” Gagliardi explained. “From a defensive perspective, you know any time Demps is battling against you in the corner that she’s going to have good body position and [will] be thinking one step ahead … In the D-zone, she communicates a ton and is really aware, which [her teammates] really appreciate.”Dempsey may have the quick hands of an All-Star forward, but she has the heart and motor of an energy line player, and in her sixth season of professional hockey that feeling hasn’t gone away. She’s the engine that keeps the Pride running. (Michelle Jay) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/38/9b/jillian-dempsey-boston-pride-020719-michelle-jay-ftrjpeg_1altf0kvxm87r12nsw19jc0mbk.jpg?t=-887187688&w=500&quality=80 Now, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game is this weekend and Boston will be well-represented in Nashville. Seven members of the Pride will rep the team at the Feb. 10 game: rookie goaltender Katie Burt, Alyssa Gagliardi, Lexi Bender, Haley Skarupa, Amanda Pelkey, Gigi Marvin and team captain Jillian Dempsey.For the second-straight year, Dempsey has been leading the way for the resurgent Pride.On a Pride team that is stacked with a talented group of forwards – including three who won Olympic gold with Team USA in Pyeongchang – Dempsey leads the way in goals, primary points, and even-strength scoring.Eager to attend her second NWHL All-Star Game, the country music fan is looking forward to her first visit to Music City and lining up with her fellow All-Stars. “I’m so excited,” Dempsey, 28, shared with Sporting News. “It’s something I never expect. You never know with that kind of thing. You work really hard and do your best on the ice and when you get a nod like that it’s obviously a rewarding feeling.”#NWHL: Last minute prep work for @TheBostonPride captain Jillian Dempsey (@JilliantDempsey). Last player off the ice for Boston. pic.twitter.com/UCgzZZLQuU— Dan Rice (@DRdiabloTHW) January 21, 2018As amped as Dempsey is, she and the Pride are still reveling in the recent announcement of the team’s partnership with the Boston Bruins. On Jan. 10, the two organizations formed a partnership, becoming the fourth team in the league with an NHL partner. That news followed the Pride’s partnership with Warrior Hockey, which was the second team-specific sponsorship in NWHL history.The historic deal with the Bruins means the world to the Pride’s captain. A lifelong Bruins fan, Dempsey won a contest to name the Bruins’ mascot when she was just nine years old. Understandably, she’s still processing what the partnership with the Bruins could mean for her, her team and the league.“We knew Hayley [Moore, the NWHL’s deputy commissioner] was going to tell us something, but we didn’t know what,” the native of Winthrop, Mass. shared. “We were doing a lot of speculation. None of us thought it was going to be a partnership with the Bruins, because we didn’t want to get our hopes up.”When she told us, everyone was speechless for a second because that was something we’ve all been wanting for years. It never really felt like it was close or like it was happening. It was such a surprise for us.”Paul Mara, a former NHL defenseman who played in 59 games with the Bruins, is in his first season as the Pride’s head coach. Dempsey has fit in seamlessly to the Belmont, Mass. native’s brand of up-tempo hockey, which echoes the style of Team USA. She considers him to be a real players’ coach.“One of the big things that he stresses for us every day is to play fast,” Dempsey said of her coach, who was an assistant with the gold medal-winning USWNT. “We have so much speed, so let’s use it. Let’s think, ‘Get the puck, make the play,’ and let’s do it quickly.”I think we have the depth and the speed to be really successful and we have to keep reminding ourselves to use it in every area of the game.”Krizova and Dempsey connect again! This time @JilliantDempsey scores. The Pride lead 2-1 #NWHL pic.twitter.com/IgjCwmu5n3— Women’s Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 3, 2019Under Mara, the Pride have already moved past last season’s disappointing record (4-8-4). In 2018-19, Boston has emerged as one of the NWHL’s top teams and is currently battling to secure home-ice advantage for the playoffs. As one might expect, Dempsey’s 13 points in 13 games this season has been a big part of the team’s success; however, she brings a lot more to the table than goals and points.“The one word I would use to describe Jill is ‘passionate’,” Gagliardi, who has been Dempsey’s teammate for the past five seasons, told the Sporting News. “She’s the most passionate individual I’ve ever met, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend or teammate that loves hockey so much.”I think I love hockey, but when I’m near Demps, I’m not even close. She’s inspiring in how she approaches every practice, every workout, and every game. She’s guaranteed to be the hardest working player on the ice.”Together, Gagliardi and Dempsey have raised the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup (Boston Blades) and the NWHL’s Isobel Cup. Dempsey appreciated her teammate’s kind appraisal and agreed with the general idea — after all, she’s a full-time fifth-grade teacher who makes a point of getting to games and practices early whenever she can. “I’ve always found that with everything I do that I’m either all-in, or not in at all,” Dempsey explained. “Whatever I do, I want to give my best effort and my whole heart.”Hockey is obviously something that I love to do, and I love to be a part of. My team is so important to me. Being a part of a team, and having that role where you put the team first is something that is essential to how I view myself … I just love the game.” The Pride’s captain credits her father and grandmother as the source of her tireless work ethic. Her dad, Jack, served in the U.S. Coast Guard for over 30 years and is currently a fire marshal and deputy fire chief in the Boston Fire Department. When Jillian was growing up, her father told her and her siblings, “You’ve got to be there, no matter what.” After all, her Nonny (grandmother) frequently told her that Bruins legend Ray Bourque never missed a practice. Things have been going well for the Boston Pride this season.The 2016 Isobel Cup champions are playing their best hockey since the 2016-17 season, and they are doing it without players such as former teammates, and Team USA superstars, Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight.