Photo Courtesy of NWHL
For over a century, the NHL has dominated the professional male hockey market. Now, having 31 teams, they make billions of dollars every year. We see the huge success that the NHL is having, but where can we find a league where women can play ice hockey professionally. Former collegiate ice hockey player and entrepreneur, Dani Rylan, saw the need for a stable league that women can play for, so she created the National Women’s Hockey League in March of 2015. So far, the NWHL has six hockey teams. Although that is fairly small, this is just the beginning for this small league, and there is no telling how far they can go. Let us now take a look at these six franchises to get a good glimpse into their players and systems.
The Buffalo Beauts were established in 2015, as one of the original four NWHL franchises. At first, the Beauts were owned by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the same company that owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, however, they gave up control of the team and it is now owned by the National Women’s Hockey League.
The Beauts entered the Isobel Cup- the NWHL championship- four times, but only won the title once in 2017. Although they have done fairly well in its first four years, the Beauts had a bit of a down season this year, with a record of 8-15-1, totaling only 17 points. Forward, Taylor Accursi lead the team in scoring, with 25 points in 24 games. Their goaltending had some issues this season, with both Kelsey Newman and Mariah Fujimagari only having 3 wins each.
Buffalo is lead by head coach Pete Perram, a former Team Switzerland assistant coach, who most recently coached his second NWHL season. The Beauts are captained by American forward Corinne Buie, who had 13 points in 24 games this season. The 28 year old has played in all five NWHL seasons.
The Boston Pride are another original four franchise whom, like the Buffalo Beauts, have only one Isobel Cup win. The Pride are one of only two NWHL teams who are owned by an outside owner. They are owned by Miles Arone, a partner at Cannon Capital.
The Pride had a fantastic season, putting up the best record in the league. Leading the charge was captain Jillian Dempsy. The American forward had 40 points in 24 games, in her fifth season in the NWHL. Their goaltending was strong as well. Swedish netminder, Lovisa Selander, had a record of 17-1-0, a .941 save percentage, and a 1.71 goals against average in her first NWHL season. The team is coached by Paul Mara; a former NHLer who has coached in his second year as of this past season.
The Monmouth Junction, New Jersey based Riveters are also one of the first four NWHL teams. They have won one Isobel Cup, in 2018, in their first and only appearance. Like most of the franchises, they are also owned by the NWHL.
The team has placed third in the standings this year, putting up a 10-11-3 record, for a total of 23 points. 29 year old American forward, Madison Packer, lead the team in points, with 34 in 24 games. She is also the Riveters team captain. Hamilton College alum, Sam Walther, lead their goaltenders with 8 wins. She also put up a .892 save percentage and a 3.79 goals against average. The head coach of this team is 32 year old first timer, Ivo Mocek. He came over here from the Czech Republic, and will hopefully have a successful coaching career in the near future.
The Six, like its name, are the sixth NWHL franchise, and the first one from Canada, as the most recent league expansion team. Toronto is owned by Johanna Neilson Boynton; a former collegiate female hockey player and the CEO and co-founder of Boynton Brennan Builders. As of right now, we do not know how well the Six will be in the upcoming season, but they have some players who may do well in their franchise; either right away or in the near future. Some skaters who caught my eye were women like Mikayla Grant-Mentis, who put up 33 points in 33 games for Merrimack College, and Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout, who scored 26 points in 36 games for Quinnipiac University. Forward, Brooke Boquist, looks great as well. She played for Leksand IF, over in Sweden this year, putting up 29 points in 24 games. The Six also have a great young goaltender, Samantha Ridgewell. The 23 year old Canadian recorded a .920 save percentage and a 2.03 goals against average for Djurgardens IF of the SDHL, which is Sweden’s premier women’s hockey league.
The last original four team is the Connecticut Whale. The Whale have not won any Isobel Cups, nor have they even appeared in the final. Although they have not had much success, the league is still fairly young, and they can take a huge step forward at any time. However, that time was definitely not this season. Connecticut had a record of 2-20-2 over this past season. They had two team point leaders, Kaycie Anderson and captain Shannon Doyle, but they only managed to put up 11 points each. Brooks Wolejko was the goaltender to put up the Whale’s loan two wins, but came up with 8 regulation losses and an over time loss. Former NHLer, Colton Orr, is the Whale head coach. Although he lead his team to the leagues lowest record this year, it is only his first season coaching in the NWHL, and will surely learn from his mistakes if he comes back next year.
The last team in the NWHL is the Minnesota Whitecaps. They entered the league in 2018, but they originally played, in the now defunct, Western Women’s Hockey League, where they were established in 2004. The Whitecaps had instant success in the National Women’s Hockey League, coming up with their first Isobel Cup title in their first season. Their success is still lasting today. They were second in the league this season, with a record of 17-5-2. They have two point leaders, with 36 points each; the first one being 32 year old Boston College alum, Allie Thunstrom, and the second being American forward, Jonna Curtis. Four year NWHL goaltender, Amanda Leveille, lead the way in between the pipes. She had a record of 16-5-2, a .935 save percentage, and a 2.08 goals against average.
What is most interesting about this team is its leadership. First of all, their captain is 42 year old University of Minnesota alum, Winny Brodt-Brown. She has been with the team since its WWHL days, since 2004, and has come up with 5 points in 20 games this season. To top it all off, the Whitecaps have two co-head coaches. The first one being 76 year old general manager, Jack Brott; however it does look like he will stick to his loan general manager duties next season. The other coach is Ronda Engelhardt, a 34 year old American, who has just finished her second year of coaching in the league.