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Volume 27 No. 28
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NWHL Commissioner Steps Down Amid Restructuring

Rylan Kearney will lead the ownership group that controls four of the NWHL's six teams
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NWHL Founder Dani Rylan Kearney is "stepping down" as Commissioner as "part of a restructuring of the league’s governing model," according to a source cited by John Wawrow of the AP. Toronto Six Chair Tyler Tumminia, a '12 SBJ Game Changers honoree, "will be appointed" as interim Commissioner. The restructuring is a "result of the NWHL forming an incorporated association that will be overseen by a board of governors, with one representative per team." This is a "departure from the past, when the NWHL oversaw control of all teams" (AP, 10/13). Rylan Kearney will now be president of the currently unnamed ownership and NWHL investor group that owns four of the six league teams -- the Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters and Minnesota Whitecaps. The league's other two teams, the Six and the Boston Pride, are independently owned. The group is being advised by Sports Advisory Group, which has previously assisted in finding independent ownership for the NWHL. Rylan Kearney’s day-to-day job will now be finding new independent owners and leading operations for those four teams. It is unclear what the timetable is for finding new independent owners as well as searching for a permanent commissioner. According to a source, there currently are active conversations with prospective owners. The source added that at least one club is expected to be sold in the next year (Mark J. Burns, THE DAILY).

BIG ROAD AHEAD: In N.Y., Seth Berkman notes Rylan Kearney for five years had been the "lone visible face" of NWHL leadership and "took the brunt of criticism for missteps." When many around the hockey world "called for merging competing women’s hockey leagues, she remained confident" that the NWHL was "pushing toward creating the best environment available for female hockey players." The NWHL, which will begin its sixth season in January, now will "turn to Tumminia to pursue the broadcast rights deals and partnerships with major brands that have largely eluded women’s hockey." The Canadian Women's Hockey League, on the other hand, "folded in 2019 because of economic troubles." The CWHL "operated as a centrally funded, nonprofit enterprise." Last season, the NWHL's "highest announced salary was $15,000." Berkman notes Tumminia previously "helped run several minor league baseball teams with a focus on sponsorship and marketing." Members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association have been "resolute in creating their own path toward a pro league that can provide players livable salaries," which the NWHL does "not yet provide." Replacing Rylan Kearney with Tumminia "will probably not change the stance" of the PWHPA, but her marketing experience "could open up avenues to untapped sponsors or potential team owners" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/13).