Jillian Dempsey ’09 Leads Team to National Championship

Baseball has its World Series, football has its Super Bowl, and the NWHL—the National Women’s Hockey League—has its Isobel Cup, awarded to the league champions each year since 2016. And this year, for the second time in its history, the Boston Pride, helmed by Jillian Dempsey ’09, has its Isobel Cup, after a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Whitecaps last weekend. To top it off, Dempsey—also a member of the Isobel-winning 2016 team—took home MVP honors.
When we caught up with Dempsey a week or so later, she said, “I’m still on cloud nine. It was that storybook ending that you hope for; I’m still thrilled about it and doesn’t feel real.” Last year, Dempsey explained, the team was heavily favored to win the championship when COVID shut the league down, two days before the final game. The frustration hung over the team this season, and they entered the tourney an underdog. “We believed we were stronger, but we were just being counted out by many people besides ourselves. But we stuck with it,” says Dempsey, and victory was all the sweeter for it.

In this year’s final, Dempsey scored the second of the team’s three unanswered goals in the second period, helping to set the team up for its eventual victory. As reported by NWHL Media, Dempsey told reporters post-game, “I guess I was in one of my sweet spots; I like shooting from that spot. Everybody went out there and did their job and owned their role and battled hard one shift at a time, and that was just our mindset and focus going forward. So proud of this whole group.”
Dempsey was, of course, a hockey standout even in her Rivers days. She went on to excel in the sport at Harvard, leading the team as captain to the 2013 Ivy League Championship. In her fifth season in the NWHL, Dempsey is the league’s all-time leading scorer, as well as the current leader in points and co-leader in assists. When not playing hockey, Dempsey works as a fifth-grade teacher in her hometown of Winthrop; she holds a master’s degree in education and served in Teach for America. In the run-up to the final, says Dempsey, “my students were awesome. Some have T-shirts with my name and number on the back; they were sending me good-luck messages. It’s really special how much support my school, my community, and the town have shown.”
Back in a 2012 interview, while Dempsey was still at Harvard, she reflected on how Rivers helped her reach her goals on and off the ice, noting, “Rivers prepared me academically for the time commitment and difficulty of college courses. The teachers, staff, and coaches made every day worth it because of their passion for what they do and genuine concern for me to do well.”
And done well she has—with the Isobel Cup to prove it.