PHOTO BY KIRSTEN BURTON
By the time Maddie Elia takes the ice for the Buffalo Beauts’ 6:00 home game on Saturday against the Connecticut Whale [TICKETS], she will have put in a full week as a happy member of the Pegula Sports and Entertainment family.
On Tuesday and Friday nights, Elia and the Beauts have practice at HarborCenter. The focus on Tuesdays tends to be conditioning – “getting our legs back,” Elia says – while Friday is more about the power play, penalty kill and systems.
To advance her development as a professional hockey player, Elia also takes part in skills sessions on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, run by the Academy of Hockey at the Sabres’ world-class practice facility. For those with flexible schedules, the 60-90-minute workouts are a perk of being one of the Beauts, who were acquired by PSE almost a year ago – Dec. 21, to be exact.
But Elia’s connections with the parent company do not end there. A public relations major at Boston University, she works part-time in the PR department of the Sabres. Now, you may ask, what happens when the NWHL team has a practice and the NHL’s most improved team has a home game? As you might expect, that doesn’t stop Elia, who’s known for being scrappy and relentless in the corners. She assists the PR department in the crucial hours leading up to puck-drop of the men’s game, and then runs to HarborCenter to begin weight training and stretching before Buffalo’s beloved women’s team hits the ice.
Not a bad situation for someone with blossoming careers on and off the ice.
“Pegula Sports and Entertainment have set the standard for the NWHL and women’s hockey – it’s what the players, the fans and everyone in the league growing our game wants to see become the norm,” said Elia, a native of Buffalo. “For us, we are fortunate to be the first, but we want it for all of the teams. I believe that’s going to happen over time. The way PSE and the Sabres treat us like family, it inspires you to play your best every shift for them, for ourselves and for Buffalo.”
Teammates and opponents know Elia never stops doing that. In her second full season with the Beauts, she leads the team with 6 goals and is second in overall scoring with 6-2-8. Not coincidentally, Buffalo’s leading scorer is Elia’s linemate, former high school teammate at the Nichols School and close friend, Hayley Scamurra. The convergence of the power and tenacity of Elia and Scamurra make them arguably the most potent one-two combination in the NWHL.
“Hayley is so strong on her skates and she shields the puck like few can, so I get her the puck every chance I get and I know she has a chance to score,” said Elia, before sharing an anecdote about one of their shifts during the Beauts’ recent exhibition series against Team Russia.
“I had the puck but I was covered, so I looked up and saw Hayley and passed it to her,” said Elia. “But then I realized she had three Russians all over her. She got the puck, did her thing and scored.” Elia laughed. “What a smart play I made!”
PHOTO BY MICHAEL HETZEL
Between their time at Nichols and the Beauts, the friendship between Elia and Scamurra was on hold at the rink because of the fierce rivalry between Elia’s BU and Scamurra’s Northeastern. Elia, who said that keeping her emotions in check during games is something she is always trying to improve, bumped into Scamurra often during their years in college.
“Hayley came up to me the other day with her phone and said, ‘I found this video of me hitting you on the ice in college, Maddie. I’m sure it was by accident.’”
Now the two are reunited, leading the way for Buffalo’s NWHL team, in an organization showing the rest of North America what’s possible in professional women’s hockey.