(Photo Courtesy of theicegarden.com) “Taylor Heise is drafted for team Minnesota.”
In June of this year, it was announced that there would be a new Professional Women’s Hockey League. The PWHL will begin its official season in June of 2024 and consist of six franchises divided between the United States and Canada.
One of the three franchises is in Toronto. Toronto has had many successful women’s teams, such as the Toronto Furies and the Toronto Six, in the past and this time is no different. There are many of the best women’s hockey players in the world in their lineup. Some of these names are Sarah Nurse, Victoria Bach, Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Fast.
Another one of the three Canadian franchises is Montreal. Jayna Hefford, the PWHL’s SVP of hockey operations said that it was a “no-brainer” to have a franchise in Montreal. It is no surprise that Montreal will have a PWHL team, as they were home to a Canadian Women’s Hockey League and Premier Hockey Federation team.
To complete the Canadian trio is Ottawa. Ottawa and Montreal have a long-time rivalry in the National Hockey League, so it will draw some crowds to PWHL games. Surprisingly, Canada’s capital has never had a professional women’s hockey team, but the league is eager to bring big crowds to the women’s organization.
The other half of the teams will exist in the United States. They are in the Midwest and along the Northern East Coast. All teams will be in the same cities as NHL teams, which will hopefully bring more crowds in to support the PWHL.
The first team in the trio is Minneapolis-St. Paul. According to Hefford, “Minnesota was always a priority market for us.” For both men and women, Minnesota historically has produced great hockey players, even some of the best college hockey players. Natalie Darwitz was named the team’s general manager. Darwitz is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and former captain of the US national team. Former Bethel University’s head coach Charlie Burggaf was named their coach.
The second team is in Boston. The team’s general manager was announced as Danielle Marmer, who is a former player development assistant for the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins. Courtney Kessel, who is Boston University’s women’s team associate head coach will be Boston’s first head coach. Some of the first players signed by Boston are Hillary Knight, Megan Keller and Aerin Frankel.
The end of the United States trifecta is the New York City area. This team’s exact location is still up in the air. Although it will most likely be near New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey have been contenders for home ice. If the team had a home base in Connecticut it would be interesting because it would be the only PWHL team in a city without a NHL team. The last NHL team in Connecticut was the Hartford Whalers, which existed from 1979-1997.
The season schedule has not been announced but will most likely run from January to May or June. Also, most of the teams will have rotating home locations. The organizers wanted to stand out from the NHL. In an interview with ESPN, PWHL board member Stan Kasten said, “That means games in other cities that are not cities in our ‘Original Six,’ both NHL cities and possibly even non-NHL cities.” He also mentioned, “In some of our markets where we are not playing in the bigger NHL venues, we will probably have events in those venues. We’ll be promoting those as special events.”