Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. If you ain’t first, you’re last. Second place is just another name for the first loser.
We’ve all heard or used these phrases before. Prior to March 28, 2022, Kayla Friesen lived it. But on that day she, and her Boston Pride teammates, won the Isobel Cup in the PHF championship game and for the first time in the 24-year-old’s hockey career, she could say that she was a champion, that she finished first, not second.
“My first one; I’ve always fallen short and got second place one too many times,” Friesen told me via text this week. “I looked at my parents on the ice after that game and said ‘I finally didn’t fall short this time!’”
To the victor goes the spoils - that’s another phrase we all know, or have said. For Friesen, she and her teammates got all the spoils and were rightly celebrated for their epic triumph not only in Tampa Bay (where the playoffs took place) but also upon returning to Boston.
It PHFeels Like the PHFirst Time
“I haven’t been a part of anything like that before. Just seeing the recognition we received, how the city rallied behind us and supported us, the appreciation they showed for us and how happy they were for us - it was awesome,” Friesen said via phone last week. “To get to do it as a team, where we all could attend these events was really special. I know last year because of covid it was a bit messed up for them in that regard. So for all of us to be able to experience those things together as a group - just made it that much more meaningful.”
Though she may be from Manitoba - more on that in a minute - she is clearly picking up some of the Boston slang after living and playing there for a season.
“The Bruins and the Red Sox gave us all jerseys with our name and numbers on the back,” she said, “that was pretty wicked. A nice little surprise from them for sure.”
Things the city of Boston loves to do: win pic.twitter.com/0lGmHdAUTI— Christina Putigna (@cputigna) April 1, 2022
Following the victory tour in Boston - which lasted about two weeks, Friesen racked up some frequent flyer miles with stops in the Bahamas, Florida, and North Carolina, as well as returning to her hometown in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“I ended up bringing the Cup home to Manitoba, which was awesome,” Friesen said at the start of our call. “Traveling with the Cup, was not as awesome. But, we got it home. I had a party at my home with all of my friends and family, that was great.”
“Then the AHL team here - the Manitoba Moose - invited me to a game to celebrate me. I think they gave me about 80 tickets, so I was able to have my friends and family there with me at that game. That was really cool, and neat to be welcomed back home and recognized like that. Not a lot of people in Canada, in smaller places like Winnipeg, know about the PHF, so I think that helped in giving us some more exposure out west and up in Canada. That’s what our game needs, and it was awesome that they reached out and set that all up for me.”
Winnipeg's Kayla Friesen “Still on Cloud Nine” After Isobel Cup Championship@kaylafriesen29 came all the way from Winnipeg to win the @PHF's Isobel Cup for @TheBostonPride— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) March 30, 2022
Now she's empowering young girls to do the samehttps://t.co/pLWr4JOqO9 @hockeymanitoba @ClarksonWHockey
Sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that make a big impact. Chances are the majority of that crowd that night hadn’t heard of the PHF or knew who Kayla Friesen was. But they do know. That, is growing the game.
“Once they showed a little snippet of me on the Jumbotron in the rink, I had a bunch of people walking up to me and introducing themselves, saying they didn’t know about our league and that they were proud I was being celebrated like that. Just having that validation shows that something small and simple that they did for me, can go a long way.”
She also agreed that those kinds of celebrations and honors are not just for her. They are also for everyone who has supported her passions and dreams and helped her along the way to get to the top of that mountain.
“Being able to give back to them in a sense - bringing the Cup home, bringing them to these events - this isn’t about just celebrating me,” said Friesen, “it’s celebrating everyone who has helped me get here. That was really special to me and it was something they all loved. I’m really happy I got the chance to do that (for them).”
Some of us weren’t fans of the playoffs taking place at a neutral site, away from where any of the six teams play, but for Friesen, she thought it was a great experience and obviously it was filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
“To do it in Tampa, and have friends and family there, plus the local support was awesome as well. They did a great job with the rink details, the broadcasting, and everything like that. I thought it was neat,” she said with excitement in her voice as she recalled the atmosphere of the Pride’s four-day business trip.
“A lot of people were skeptical about us going down south, but in the end, I really do think it helped to expose us to a bit of a different fan base and open their eyes up. We showed them that we’re the real deal.”
For the first off-season ever, Friesen can call herself a champion, and who knows, maybe she will do it again. At least for the summer, she can continue to enjoy the revels of victory, finally.