Following the PWHL’s opening night spectacular featuring a puck drop by board members and tennis legends Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, as well as goals by out Olympians Alex Carpenter and Jill Saulnier, LGBTQ fans could be forgiven for wondering what the league would do for an encore.
Then during the third period of the league’s game two — between Montreal and Ottawa — the league gave its answer: its first-ever all-fiancées goal and assist, when Montreal’s Laura Stacey scored after being set up by her partner, Marie-Philip Poulin.
With less than six minutes to go in the game and Montreal trailing, 2-1, Poulin helped free the puck around center ice and teammate Tereza Vanisová sent it toward the Ottawa zone. Stacey gained control at the blue line and fired the game-tying goal over Ottawa goalie Emerance Manchmeyer’s right shoulder.
Poulin was the first player to meet Stacey behind the net as the fiancées raised their hands in celebration and embraced.
Le but à Laura Stacey!— PWHL Montréal (@PWHL_Montreal) January 3, 2024
Stacey’s goal pic.twitter.com/oWGGBsKzWL
That moment became one of the most-shared images from Montreal’s 3-2 overtime win when an anti-LGBTQ Twitter troll tried to spoil the good feelings, and it backfired on him spectacularly.
After a hockey clip account posted a GIF of Stacey’s goal with the caption “score a goal and celly with your fiance,” a user named Marcus (followed by a bunch of random numbers) decided to attempt what in his mind must have seemed like a sick burn.
“Her fiancee is there? Didn’t see him behind the glass,” he typed, presumably pausing to high-five all his bros who weren’t actually there.
After which @JQULNN22 replied, “her fiancée is #29 poulin. she’s gay, marcus.” And that was the part of the exchange that went viral, making it almost as perfect as the goal that inspired it.
Homophobic trolls would probably want to avoid saying anything to Stacey and Poulin in person, as the pair also demonstrated how they stand up for each other as teammates during a brief skirmish earlier in the game.
Laura Stacey and Marie-Philip Poulin tag teaming a fight makes me feel a lot of things……. https://t.co/kI84lb2fkV— Robyn Flynn (@robynlisaflynn) January 3, 2024
Although Ottawa ended up dropping their home opener, the night was also special for their captain Brianne Jenner, another out member of Team Canada.
During the pregame introductions, fans recognized Jenner’s contribution to the formation of the PWHL with a standing ovation. Jenner saluted the crowd by raising her stick as she skated onto the ice and was visibly moved by the gesture of support.
To top the night off, the game set a new attendance record for women’s professional hockey, as 8,318 fans saluted Jenner and witnessed the fiancées goal and assist at Ottawa’s TD Place Arena.
While the result was not what most of them wanted, they still got to see history for the league and its LGBTQ athletes. If that trend continues, the PWHL could be setting attendance records all year.