U.S. Women Hockey Players Hope To Unite North American Pro Leagues
Veterans on the U.S. women's hockey team "want to use their influence to achieve another long-sought goal: creating a single North American women's professional league," but several obstacles will "test the players' sway, including a standoff among other influencers," according to Seth Berkman of the N.Y. TIMES. USA Hockey and the NHL have "remained on the sidelines as professional women's hockey matured in recent years." Instead of coming together, the two North American leagues -- the NWHL and CWHL -- "seem to be stockpiling assets for a battle of attrition." The four-team NWHL yesterday "added its first expansion team: the Minnesota Whitecaps," and last year the CWHL, which began play in '07, "added two franchises from China to make it a seven-team league." With the '18-19 season set to begin in five months, U.S. Olympians have "not committed to either league, hoping instead that they can quickly get women's hockey in harmony." Gold Medal-winning U.S. F Hilary Knight said, "There's definitely conversations happening behind the scenes, and I definitely see movement." U.S. F Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said, "If North America can get on the same page and get one league, I also think we can get top European players to play, and that's when I think you see a huge stride in women's hockey internationally." But Berkman notes outside of a '15 outdoor exhibition, the two leagues have "shown little inclination to work together." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that as long as the NWHL and CWHL continue to operate separately, the NHL "would not interfere, even though that leaves 'two leagues where neither is perhaps as strong as it should or could be.'" Lamoureux-Davidson: "It would be nice to see a little bit more of an active approach than a passive approach from some higher-up people" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16). NeutralZone.net's Jashvina Shah tweeted, "I don’t think there’s anything wrong with two leagues. Competition is good and the NWHL gives fans in non-college hockey areas in the US a chance to watch women’s hockey."
LONG TIME COMING: NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said that adding the Whitecaps has been a "priority" since the league's inception in '15, adding that it "started coming together a few months ago after holding the annual all-star Weekend at the TRIA Rink," the Wild's new practice rink. In St. Paul, Dane Mizutani notes it is "still unclear where the Whitecaps will play their home games next season," but an announcement is "expected to come in the coming weeks." The Whitecaps will "initially be owned by the league" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/16). In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount notes while the Whitecaps' core management team "will remain," it is "uncertain how many current and former players will return." Gold Medal-winning U.S. women's hockey players Fs Hannah Brandt, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Lamoureux-Davidson, Kendall Coyne and G Alex Rigsby "played for the Whitecaps" in '16-17. Rylan yesterday said, "We're ready to expand. We wanted to take our time with it" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/16). U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.): "The #StateofHockey gets another all-star team! The@MinnesotaWhitecaps are the first non-east coast team to join the NWHL. It will be great to have even more athletic talent headed to our state."