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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Shake-up in the CWHL

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The CWHL expands to China, adds Kelli Stack and Noora Räty... and Brenda Andress commits to player compensation for the 2017-18 season. We even found room for news from other leagues, too!

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Kunlun Red Star logo Chris Tanouye / CWHL

Story of the Week

There isn’t one perfect article on the CWHL expansion news so we’re just going ahead with our impressions of all of this and we’ve curated the best few articles in the CWHL section below.

Annie: Signing Räty and Stack is huge news. Firstly, in my opinion, Noora Räty is the best women’s hockey goalie in the world. She’s fresh off a return to the Women’s World Championships that culminated in her receiving the Best Goaltender award and the Finns taking the bronze medal. She’s played in men’s pro leagues in Finland since the Sochi Olympics, a move that was at least in part due to financial concerns, so it’s great to see her in women’s pro hockey. Mostly, I’m giddy about the opportunity to watch Räty in person—other than her time in the NCAA and the occasional international tournament, she’s spent her career in Europe. She’s a gifted athlete, and having her in the CWHL is a real win, both for the league and for North American women’s hockey fans.

On a less optimistic note, Kelli Stack leaving the NWHL is bad news for a league already losing their star players to Olympic centralization. Stack was a surprise cut from the US centralization roster, and was one of the few marquee names the NWHL could have re-signed. She’s spent the past two years as a forward for the Connecticut Whale, was a two-time NWHL All-Star, and was the highest-paid player in the league its first season. It’s not a good sign for the health of the NWHL, much like the relative dearth of RFA signings by the June 1st deadline.

Nafio: I think it’s fair to say that I have been in a mild state of “wtf?” since The Ice Garden broke the initial reports about a team from China. That ramped up this week as the invitation to the press conference went out, followed by the reports of Noora Räty and Kelli Stack joining the new team.

Stack was introduced as officially the first player to sign with Kunlun Red Star (she returns to the CWHL as a free agent, while Räty will need to join the draft). As the only (or first?) player to come back to the C after playing in the NWHL, her involvement raises a lot of questions. As a former member of the USWNT she will bring both considerable talent and a fair bit of American attention to the league.

The biggest get so far, though, is Noora Räty. Like Annie, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to see her play in person a few times this season.

One thing that only the IIHF article touches on and that not all Westerners remember is that China is not new to the women’s hockey scene. They were the fourth-placed team at the Nagano Olympics. On Monday night, I got to talk to Fran Rider, current President and CEO of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. Fran is also the first woman to be inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category (2015) and is a member of both the Order of Canada (2015) and the Order of Hockey in Canada (2017). Since her involvement with international women’s hockey goes back to the very beginning, I asked her about how the Chinese national team has evolved over the years.

It's interesting, our first introduction to China was in 1987 when we ran the World Tournament with six countries that competed and another five sent delegates, and China sent delegates, they didn't have women's hockey in China, but they brought two taxi loads of equipment, because video equipment was quite cumbersome then, and they indicated they had an interest in developing women's hockey in China then.

Then after that evolved into the Worlds they were quite strong, and they had a really powerful goalie in Hong Guo, the “Great Wall of China” she was nicknamed, she did incredible, she made some incredible saves, and she was the strength of the country, they had some other great players, and then their skill level declined a little bit as the other countries got stronger, but they remained committed. Following that they got some great players in Wang Linuo and Chi and Sunny [Sun Rui], had some incredibly strong players, and they were starting to challenge again at the world level, and as those players got older there was a bit of a gap, in the younger players coming up.

They have trained extensively for the past six years, they have trained in Ontario, and they trained here before they went to the Olympics in Vancouver, and the next generation, we saw last year some really good advancements in the younger players, and they've kept their veterans involved too, so it has been an up and a down hill in China, but they've had the commitment, they've had some really solid players, and they've kept them as role models for the next generation, so the enthusiasm the country has now to get women's hockey successful, and women's sports, all sports, for the 2022 Olympics is very very strong, and we expect to see them challenging in a lot of different sports for medals in 2022.

CWHL

Report: Noora Räty, Kelli Stack sign with CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star - The Ice Garden
Stack, Räty leave respective teams for newest CWHL expansion team; Stack’s departure major blow for NWHL

CWHL announces new expansion team in China - The Ice Garden
The CWHL will have a sixth team next season, Kunlun Red Star, that will be based in Shenzhen.

CWHL expands to China - IIHF
Chinese ice hockey club Kunlun Red Star launches a new women’s hockey team that will play in one of the best women’s hockey leagues in the world, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Canadian Women’s Hockey League adding expansion team in China - The Globe and Mail
This move is just one part of China’s efforts to rapidly expand hockey participation and fan bases there before hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Canadian Women’s Hockey League to Add a Team From China - The New York Times
The expansion team opens women’s hockey to Asian marketing opportunities as China begins a push to field a competitive team at the 2022 Beijing Games.

China's Kunlun Red Star officially joins CWHL - Hockey - CBC
In The Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night, The CWHL and the Chinese Hockey Association made it official — China will have a team in the CWHL.

Kunlun Red Star first step in growing hockey in China - The Ice Garden
KRS women’s club is just one move in China’s attempt to grow the game at home and abroad.

Compensation

Around the 6-minute mark of this clip from Tuesday’s episode of Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid, in response to the question "How close are you to the point where it might be sustainable for a woman to play hockey for a living?" CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress says:

"We are gonna compensate the players this year, we said we would, the Board has made that commitment in our strategic plan and we're going to start that this year for our players."

While this doesn’t necessarily mean salaries, this is the most direct Andress has been in addressing player compensation for the upcoming season. She more or less avoided the subject during Monday night’s announcement and had been using rather vague language throughout the 2016-17 season whenever the question of payment came up.

s/t to Kirsten Whelan for the clip

NWHL

NWHL Teams Begin Re-Building Rosters
The NWHL's restricted free agency period has now ended, with 18 players re-signing with their respective clubs. Unrestricted free agency is now open.

Riveters Back On the Ice For a Good Cause
Michelle Picard, Miye D’Oench, Sarah Bryant & Lauren Wash of the Riveters joined 28 other women for a Hockey Fights Hate charity game, raising over $3,000.

Wash And Herr To Have Bigger Roles Next Season For Riveters
The NWHL's restricted free agency period is over. The New York Riveters surprised fans with some unexpected signings. The team promoted...

Signings and re-signings

Kaliya Johnson signs with Boston Pride - The Ice Garden
Johnson becomes the first NWHL player in the 2017 offseason to sign with a new team.

Re-signing Corinne Buie An Obvious Choice For Buffalo Beauts
Kelsey Neumann inks Beauts deal in full goalie equipment | SI.com
Pride re-sign Jillian Dempsey and Mary Parker - The Ice Garden
Riveters re-sign D’Oench, Dosdall and Gruschow - The Ice Garden
Anya Battaglino signs with Connecticut Whale - The Ice Garden

SDHL (Sweden)

Sundsvall out of SDHL - The Ice Garden
Swedish league goes from ten teams to nine after Sundsvall’s women’s team was cut to save money for men’s club.

Göteborg HC joins SDHL - The Ice Garden
Division 1 team promoted to SDHL after Sundsvall’s shock exit

Swedish Ice Hockey Association abruptly cuts subsidies for foreign players in SDHL - The Ice Garden
Wednesday morning news from the SDHL and it’s not great.

Hockey Canada

Irreplaceable - Jill Saulnier, Canadian National Team
Jill Saulnier helps to grow the game of women's hockey as a member of the Canadian national women's hockey team that is gearing up for PyeongChang.

Q&A with Fran Rider, women's hockey pioneer and new member of Legends Row in Mis
Fran Rider, a relentless women’s hockey pioneer, has seen it all through 50 years of service.

Para ice hockey

'I forget I'm in pain': UK's first Para Ice Hockey camp in Nottingham gives disabled athletes 'freedom' - Notts TV News
Athletes from the UK’s first-ever Para Ice Hockey camp in Nottingham say they play because of the ‘freedom you don’t have in a wheelchair’.
Warning for gross “inspirational disabled people” stuff but still important.

NCAA

Halli Krzyzaniak preserving a program’s all-round picture
Halli Krzyzaniak has given the suddenly defunct North Dakota women’s hockey two happier stories as a Canadian Olympic prospect and WCHA postgrad scholar.

The Path Forward for Elite Female Officials
Krissy Morrison wants to officiate in the Olympics. In order to reach that goal, she has to become the best official she can be.

College hockey: Penn State names Jeff Kampersal new women's coach | NCAA.com
Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour has announced the appointment of Jeff Kampersal as the second head coach in the history of the women's hockey program.

NCAA Powerhouses Lose Key Women's Hockey Players To Olympics
There is no doubt that the loss of the Olympic athletes will alter the landscape of the 2017-18 seasons in women’s pro hockey, but national team rosters also have plucked several key players from college teams.

EIHL (England)

Womens season ends with Super Sunday and four fabulous Finals – English Ice Hockey Association
The EIHA Womens Section season finale took place at Sheffield last weekend – Trophy Weekend saw fourteen teams compete in four competitions.