Let’s Play Hockey photo by Mike Thill
The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) has entered its first phase of expansion in a significant way. The league, founded in 2015 with a mission of providing strong female role models for the community while fueling the continued growth of the sport and brand of women’s hockey, has extended its reach by expanding to the great hockey state of Minnesota.
The NWHL has acquired the Minnesota Whitecaps, the State of Hockey franchise formed in 2004 and has been the home of many of the greatest players in the history of the game. Minnesota will become the league’s fifth club, joining the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters, and start play in the 2018-19 NWHL season. Returning to Saint Paul three months after collaborating with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild on the 2018 NWHL All-Star Weekend, the league made the announcement today at a press conference in Saint Paul, Minn.
“We are ecstatic to welcome Minnesota to the NWHL,” said League Founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan. “Minnesota is an essential part of women’s hockey in North America. When you consider all of the talented players in this area and the passion this community has for the game, the Whitecaps are going to be incredible on and off the ice. The women’s hockey players of Minnesota are among the best in the world at what they do and now they'll have an opportunity to play professionally. After all, the young girls of this state should be able to dream as big as their brothers.Having Minnesota in the NWHL expands our national footprint and grows our game in so many ways. This is a monumental step for the NWHL.”
Said Gigi Marvin, a native of Warroad, Minn., player for the NWHL’s Boston Pride and a member of gold medal-winning Team USA at this year’s Olympics, “It’s an exciting day for women’s hockey with Minnesota joining the NWHL! The state of Minnesota produces many outstanding players, so it’s awesome that those players can now compete professionally.”
“I am thrilled to welcome the National Women’s Hockey League to the State of Hockey,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “I am very proud of our Minnesota Whitecaps and the exceptionally talented Minnesotans who play for them. I look forward to cheering, as they win the Isobel Cup next year! Let’s play hockey!"
Like the Founding Four teams when the NWHL started in 2015, the Minnesota team will be owned initially by the league. Last season, Pegula Sports & Entertainment – the owners of the Buffalo Sabres, Bills and other local franchises – acquired the Beauts, while the New Jersey Devils formed a strategic alignment with the Riveters.
The Whitecaps were founded in 2004. Among their alumni are legends such as Angela Ruggiero, Julie Chu and Natalie Darwitz. The Olympic gold medal-winning Team USA in 2018 included Whitecaps Hannah Brandt, Kendall Coyne, Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Alex Rigsby. Lisa Chesson, currently a defender for the Buffalo Beauts and member of the U.S. Olympic Team in 2010, is a former member of the Whitecaps.
“The Whitecaps have done an excellent job of growing the game in the state of Minnesota and it’s exciting to see how far this program has come,” said U.S. gold medalist and Whitecaps forward Hannah Brandt. “It’s an organization full of people that are extremely passionate about women’s hockey and positive role models that young players in the state can look up to.”
“On behalf of my teammates and everyone in the Whitecaps organization, I want to say that this is an incredible moment for women’s hockey in Minnesota and we’re truly excited to become a member club in the NWHL,” said Winny Brodt Brown, the captain of the Whitecaps, a former member of the U.S. National Team and the first-ever recipient of the Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award. “We are determined to have a women's professional team that the hockey fans of Minnesota can be proud of. I’m looking forward to hitting the ice with my teammates and being able to play for the Isobel Cup”!
“The NWHL takes immense pride in providing the platform and the opportunity for high-level players to continue their careers and become even stronger players after college,” said Hayley Moore, NWHL Deputy Commissioner and Director of Player Development. “Expanding to Minnesota, with its rich hockey culture and abundance of elite players, is a thrilling opportunity for the NWHL, its players, coaches and everyone involved to show what we’re capable of. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously, and we can’t wait to get started in Minnesota.”