National Women's Hockey League Completes First Season; Canadian Expansion Coming?
The Boston Pride on Saturday won the NWHL's inaugural Isobel Cup, sweeping the Buffalo Beauts 2-0 in a "best-of-three series" at Prudential Center's practice facility, according to ESPNW.com (3/12). SI.com's Nick Forrester noted fans packed inside the arena to "witness both games." The "excitement and energy with seeing the historic event overflowed throughout the weekend" (SI.com, 3/12). Meanwhile, TODAY'S SLAPSHOT's Mike Murphy tweeted, "Looks like the league has plans for expansion. 2 Canadian teams." YAHOO SPORTS' Jen Neale noted if the NWHL plans to expand to Canada, it is a "big one, and one that will no doubt bother CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress." The CWHL "has teams in Montreal, Toronto, and Brampton, a suburb of Toronto" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/13). NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan before Saturday's game said that the league "will 'definitely' be back for a second season next year, and that she also plans on having a longer season and more games" (SI.com, 3/12).
BORDER CROSSING? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton noted the NWHL's live video stream Saturday "flashed a graphic on screen that gave promise that the off-season could be a big one for the burgeoning women’s league," suggesting the NWHL "could be having its first two Canadian clubs as soon as next season." There has been no confirmation of pending expansion, but the graphic showed a map of NWHL teams with two dots that "appear to be located in Toronto and Montreal." If this means two extra teams for next year, the expectation "shouldn’t be the amalgamation with the CWHL, but rather one major city hosting two women’s professional clubs" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 3/13). In Ottawa, Ken Warren writes the NWHL's expansion tease "came as a surprise to the CWHL." Many close observers of women’s professional hockey "believe ultimate success will only come if there’s one big league, putting all of the game’s elite players in the same place" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/14).
DOWN WITH THE CAUSE: In Montreal, Pat Hickey wrote the CWHL has "made great strides during its eight-year history, particularly in Montreal." The one "disappointing element is that while many of the players in the CWHL have struck gold in international competition, the league is populated by amateurs." There are no salaries in the CWHL, and the "majority of the athletes pay for the privilege of playing." In recent years, NHL teams in Canada "have become more involved in the women’s game." But the NHL "could be playing a greater role in producing professional women’s hockey in Canada and in the U.S." The NHL "has a diversity program," with an investment of $250,000 per team. The NHL could create a $7.5M pool that "would allow the women’s teams to flourish in a professional manner." The "obvious upside is to guarantee year-round training for Canadian and U.S. national teams, provide development opportunities for younger players and to allow women to realize their dreams of playing professional hockey" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 3/12).