The National Women’s Hockey League made some recent decisions regarding the future of the league on Thursday.
The most important of which, deals with the immediate future for the NWHL. Representatives from the league and the NWHL Players Association agreed to complete the playoffs and 2017 Isobel Cup by March 19, so that members of the national team will be able to participate in the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan from March 31 to April 7.
NWHL Commissioner, Dani Rylan said, “One of the primary missions of the NWHL is to help women realize Olympic dreams and national team aspirations, so concluding our season prior to the World Championships is the right thing to do.”
Rylan added, “We always wanted to be supportive of our national team players, so we are glad to have worked something out with the player reps. In the end, we all want what is best for women’s hockey, and you will see that in the sprint to this year’s Isobel Cup and in the coming seasons of the NWHL. It is a very exciting time for the game and for our league.”
The two sides reached the agreement after discussions from several players, who had requested the earlier end to the season, for national team players to be in peak shape and condition for the tournament. In the original schedule, there would have been a three week break between the World Championship and the conclusion of the regular season and start of the playoffs, in late April.
The updated schedule for the remainder of the regular season and the 2017 Isobel Cup Playoffs can be found on the league’s website, by following the link http://www.nwhl.zone/page/show/2742599-schedule. The league will also offer refunds or exchanges to all fans of tickets that have been effected by the change.
The NWHL also announced that next fall they the Founding Four Franchises; the Boston Pride, New York Riveters, Connecticut Whale and Buffalo Beauts will return for season three. All four teams will play most their home games in their markets, but will also include a few neutral site matchups during the 2017-2018 season.
The neutral site games will help to gauge the reactions and help promote the game in prospective expansion markets. The league will also have a few exhibition games against various national teams.
The NWHL, which is the only women’s hockey league in North America to compensate its players and share a portion of the jerseys and shirseys sales will continue to do so in season three.
Rylan said, “We are very happy to be at full strength for year three of the NWHL. The talent pool in women’s hockey is so deep and we are highly motivated to showcase these outstanding athletes. Although we will miss the Olympians and can’t wait to cheer them on, we have a great season in store for the 2017-2018 with the Pride, Beauts, Whale and Riveters. As part of it, we are looking at presenting a few games outside of the Boston, Connecticut, Buffalo and New York City area. These will help inform future decisions about expansion.”
In regards to expansion, Rylan mentioned that is reviewing prospective markets that might work, but will not make any decision until at least the 2018-2019 NWHL season.
She said, “We have received interest from several markets and ownership groups, and we will review these options over next year. We are grateful for their enthusiasm for the NWHL and professional women’s hockey. Women’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. Last year alone, USA Hockey saw close to a five percent growth in girls’ registration. It is only a matter of time before we will have to expand to accommodate both the talent pool and the fan base.”
The NWHLPA also announced that Connecticut Whale defender, Anya Battaglino, will serve as the director. Battaglino, a 2014 graduate of Boston University, has been a member of the players’ association since the inaugural season in 2015.
She said, “It is extremely important to get a seat at the table to advocate for the betterment of the league. We are so excited as a unit to continue to forge a strong relationship with Commissioner Rylan and the league office, and I am honored to have the support of the NWHLPA as I step into this role. It is humbling to be able to continue pioneer for women’s sports in a leadership position and even more of an honor to represent such amazing athletes.”
She continued, “Being the voice of the athletes is an extremely important task. I am grateful to have the support of all of the representatives to continue our conversations into the offseason to grow the league and strive for success for all of women’s hockey.”
Rylan added, “I look forward to collaborating with Anya and all of the player reps on our vision for next season and beyond. The input of the players is vital to everything we do.”
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