The day is finally here for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and it came really quickly. Back on March 26 when news formation of the league broke, October seemed really far away, and the league had a lot of work to do.
Sure there have been some bumps and bruises along the way, as is expected of a fledging start-up, but they’ve made it to puck drop. And the first checks received by the players last week have cleared the bank.
Here’s a rundown of what you need to know ahead of today’s NWHL debut. See the rosters (and how much they’re making), who to watch, and which goalies are expected to be No. 1 for their respective teams.
Commissioner: Dani Rylan
Regular Season: Oct. 1, 2015 – Feb. 14, 2016, games on Saturdays and Sundays
Ultimate Prize: Isobel Cup
Roster Size: 18 players (15 skaters, 3 goalies)
Salary Cap: $270,000 per team
Three Strengths of the League:
1) Paying players. This is what has garnered the most attention for the league up to it’s debut. What they make may not be a living wage in the United States, but it’s a start in the right direction. The league will provide equipment to players that need it, and even brought in a stick company to customize twigs for the women who aren’t sponsored by a major retailer. Players also receive 15-percent of jersey sales.
2) Social Media and public relations campaign. In order to get eyeballs on your league nowadays, you have to reach fans where they are. The NWHL and the players who have joined it have been constantly Tweeting, Instagram-ing, blogging for various websites, doing numerous interviews, making tons of appearances, helping raise money, etc. in order to get people talking. Dani Rylan has been literally everywhere. She even had time to write for The Players Tribune.
3) Team USA connection. What better way to continue to grow women’s hockey in the United States than to scatter Olympic medalists, past-World Juniors players and World Championship athletes across the rosters.
Three Challenges to the League:
1) They’re new. The first games for the league may be sold out, but will that continue? Can they draw a fanbase outside the rabid hockey fans already in their market? Women’s hockey is still incrementally gaining support in the US. Think about it, if the NHL knew it was going to be a success right off the bat, they’d get their mitts all over it.
2) Financial Stability. The league has been pretty hush hush about their financing sources which makes a lot of people nervous about the long term stability and rightfully so. Until the league can convince the fans – and more importantly, current and future sponsors – they are here to stay, the question is going to loom over them.
3) The CWHL. The mass exodus from the CWHL has NOT happened. A majority of the players who played with the league stayed there. Most of the athletes who flocked to the NWHL were former members of the Boston Blades. Can the two leagues compete for eyes and butts in the seats, especially in Boston where there are now two women’s teams?
Did You Know? Almost all the players have played college hockey at some level. If it weren’t for the NWHL or the CWHL, most of the players would be done with their careers after they graduate.
New York Riveters at Connecticut Whale, 1:30 PM ET
Boston Pride at Buffalo Beauts, 3:30 PM ET
Live Streaming: Free via YouTube on NWHL.co
Team: Boston Pride
Home Arena: Harvard Bright-Landry Center, Boston, MA
General Manager: Hayley Moore
Head Coach: Bobby Jay
Asst. Coach: Lauren McAuliffe
Three Skaters to Watch:
1) Hilary Knight, F. With Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist; 5-time gold medalist at the Women’s World Championship (WWC) and tournament MVP in 2015. At the University of Wisconsin: National titles in 2009 and 2011; first Team All-American honors and WCHA Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2008-09. With the Boston Blades: Clarkson Cup champion in 2013 and 2015; league MVP for 2012-13 season.
2) Brianna Decker, F. With Team USA: silver at the Sochi Olympics in 2014; WWC gold medalist in 2011, 2013, and 2015, and silver in 2012. At the Four Nations Cup tournaments she earned 3 gold, 2 silver, and one bronze medal. At the University of Wisconsin she was the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award recipient. Won a Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades in 2015 and was named Rookie of the Year.
3) Gigi Marvin, D. With Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist; played in six World Championships and seven Four Nations Cup tournaments. At the 2012 World Championship, she switched from forward to defense. At the University of Minnesota: Appeared in the Frozen Four twice and was named the WCHA’s Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award. With the Boston Blades: won the Clarkson Cup in 2013.
|2009-2013||NCAA||U of Maine||107||272||2,919||3,191||0.915||2.74||32-53-13|
Projected No. 1: Brittany Ott.
Team: Buffalo Beauts
Home Arena: HaborCenter, Buffalo, NY
General Manager: Linda Mroz
Co-Head Coaches: Shelley Looney & Ric Seiling
Three Skaters to Watch:
1) Meghan Duggan, F. With Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist, Captain America for 2014 Olympic games, has 5 golds and 1 silver medal from the Women’s World Championships. At Wisconsin: three National Championships, won Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2011, First Team All-American in 2010-11 and two-time All-WCHA First Team. With Boston Blades: Won Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015.
2) Megan Bozek, D. With Team USA: Olympic silver medalist in 2014, won gold in 2013 and silver in 2012 at Women’s World Championship. With University of Minnesota: Two National Championships and in 2013 was First Team All-American, First Team All-WCHA, and WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. With Toronto Furies: Selected second overall in 2014 CWHL draft.
3) Emily Pfalzer, D. With Team USA: gold medalist at WWC in 2015 and silver medalist at the Four Nations Cup in 2014. At Boston College: First Team All-American in 2014-15, two-time Best Defenseman in Hockey East, three straight Hockey East First Team All-Star, conference’s All-Rookie Team as a freshman, and only defenseman to hit 100-point mark at BC.
Projected No. 1: Brianne McLaughlin
Team: Connecticut Whale
Home Arena: ChelseaPiers CT, Stamford, CT
General Manager: Harry Rosenholtz
Head Coach: Jake Mastel
Three Skaters to Watch:
1) Kellie Stack, F. Highest paid player in the NWHL. With Team USA: Team USA: two Olympic silver medals, three Women’s World Championship gold medals, and named Best Forward at 2012 WWC. At Boston College: Three-time Hockey East Player of the Year, two-time conference scoring champion, and 2011-12 New England Player of the Year.
2) Yekaterina Smolentseva, F. With Team Russia: Played in four consecutive Olympic games, and has been a part of Team Russia since 1999 WWC. Has three Russian Women’s Chamionships and four Europen Women’s Champions Cups.
3) Kaleigh Fratkin, D. First Canadian to sign with NWHL. With Team Canada: Won Four Nations Cup in 2015 and silver medalist in U-18 Women’s World Championship. At Boston University: Hockey East Conference champion, New England Division I All-Star and Hockey East First-Team All-Star in 2013-14. With Boston Blades: Won Clarkson Cup in 2015. First woman to play with Vancouver North West Giants and won a B.C. provincial championship in 2010.
Projected No. 1: Chelsea Laden
(It ended up being Jaimie Leonoff in net for the first game.)
Team: New York Riveters
Home Arena: Aviator Sports & Event Center, Brooklyn, NY
General Manager: Dani Rylan
Head Coach: Chad Wiseman
Asst. Coach: Mark DeSimone
Three Skaters to Watch:
1) Lyudmila Belyakova, F. Team Russia: Played for national team since 15-years-old; appeared in three U-18 Women’s World Championship, winning gold in 2011, earned bronze medal at 2013 WWC and a gold medal at the Winter Universiade tournament in Granada, Spain.
2) Brooke Ammerman, F. With University of Wisconsin: Fourth all-time leading scorer in school history and two-time National Champion. As a freshman: All-WCHA Rookie Team, WCHA Final Face-off All-Tournament Team, and team Rookie of the Year. As a sophomore: WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, team Offensive Player of the Year, and WCHA All-Star. Named to the All-WCHA Third Team three times, and NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team twice.
3) Janine Weber, F. First player to sign contract with NWHL. With Boston Blades: scored Clarkson Cup clinching goal in 2015. With Vienna Sabres of EWHL scored 182 points (111+71) in 83 career games and two championships.
|2014||IIHF||Team Japan (OLY)||5||15||116||131||0.886||3.31||0-0-5|
|2015||IIHF||Team Japan (WWC)||5||8||120||128||0.938||1.52||4-1-0|
Projected No. 1: Nana Fujimoto