The NWHL is continuing to grow women’s hockey
We all know about the National Hockey League. It’s existed for a century and its history is extremely rich and exciting and filled with some of the greatest athletes in history. Messier, Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Orr; these names are known all over the world. Just two years ago, a new league was born. One focused on making their own history and creating their own superstars. A league that was born to showcase talents that many haven’t seen. A league that features some of the best women’s athletes in the world. In March of 2015 the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) was formed and they now seek to further establish themselves and show that hockey isn’t just for the boys.
Forming the NWHL
In March of 2015, the formation of the NWHL was announced with former hockey player Dani Rylan as commissioner. Prior to the formation of the NWHL the only top level professional women’s hockey league in North American was the Canadien Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). The NWHL promised to give their players an actual salary which was absolutely huge due to the fact that the CWHL only pays players in bonuses and not from an actual salary. When the league was formed each team had a cap of $270,000 with a $10,000 dollar minimum for each signed player.
The NWHL season consists of 18 regular season games followed best-of-three series to determine the winner of the Isobel Cup. The Isobel Cup is named for Lady Isobel Gathome-Hardy, the daughter of Frederick Stanley who was the donor of the original Stanley Cup. Last season, 2016/17 the playoffs followed a single game elimination format rather than the best-of-three series format of the previous year.
The four original teams in the NWHL are the New York Riveters, the Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts and the Connecticut Whale. Those markets were chosen due to the rich hockey tradition in each. Three of those cities also currently have an NHL franchise in the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres respectively. Connecticut, specifically Hartford, used to be the home of the Hartford Whalers. Although the Riveters are a New York franchise they play their home games in New Jersey at the Barnabas Health Hockey House at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. They formerly played their home games at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, NY.
With four teams formed and promised salaries, women hockey players began to take notice with some pretty prominent names joining right off the bat including some of the best players in the world. Hilary Knight (now of the Boston Pride) and former captain of the US Women’s Hockey team Meghan Duggan (now of the Boston Pride as well) both signed on with the league in its earliest days. This league became a beacon for women who wanted to play professionally and could now be guaranteed pay to do so. Amanda Kessel signed with the New York Riveters prior to the 2016/17 season. NCAA players, players from the CWHL who wanted to play in a new environment, international players… they all now had this place to take their talents to.
The inaugural draft took place on June 20th, 2015 that consisted of five rounds with four picks in each. The first ever draft pick in NWHL history was made by the New York Riveters organization. They selected Alex Carpenter from the Boston College Eagles. From there the inaugural season kicked off on October 11th, 2015 and history was made. The Boston Pride became the first ever league champions and won the Isobel Cup.
With two solid seasons under their belts the NWHL now seeks to grow its popularity and the fans ability to watch their games. They still seek to find a national television partner to showcase their games. However, a recent broadcast deal with Twitter to air live games during the season could be very promising for the league. It was announced on June 20, 2017 that they had reached a deal with Twitter to live stream 16 regular season games throughout the season as well as the NWHL All-Star Game and the NWHL/Team Russia Summit Series during the 2017/18 season.
The NWHL is here to stay, and it continues to open up minds and hearts with each passing season.
For much more on the NWHL and the New York Riveters, keep it here on Fulltiltnyr.com as we discuss the Riveters more in depth this week. Keep an eye out next Monday as Riveters forward Rebecca Russo will be joining the FTNYR Radio Podcast to discuss her first season in the league and more about women’s hockey and the NWHL.