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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Minnesota Whitecaps finally pick a league!

Plus some new coaches, and interesting interviews from around the world of women’s sports.

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Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 2
Hannah Brandt and Mira Jalosuo have both played for the Minnesota Whitecaps. Will we see them in the NWHL next year?
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Story of the Week

Pro women's hockey league expands with addition of Minnesota team - StarTribune.com

Minnesota Whitecaps Join NWHL

Professional Women's Hockey Comes to Minnesota as Whitecaps join NWHL | Zone Coverage

NWHL carves path forward with addition of Whitecaps - The Ice Garden

Gold-medal winning Robb Stauber will coach Whitecaps

As Minnesota Whitecaps join NWHL, a Q&A with team captain and league boss – The Athletic (Subscription only)

The NWHL gave everyone plenty of warning that there was going to be Big News announced last Tuesday, and that it involved Minnesota. We were all set to break our offseason biweekly schedule for the announcement, but when it came it was so short on concrete details we decided to hold off another week and see if anything developed.

The Minnesota Whitecaps were established in 2004 as part of the Western Women’s Hockey League, back when the original NWHL was a thing. As their website still proudly proclaims, they were the 2010 Clarkson Cup Champions (the Clarkson Cup used to be an interleague championship trophy until the WWHL folded following the 2010-11 season). Their rosters have boasted Olympians from at least three different countries. And yet, despite mentions of their legacy, the overwhelming reaction to the news that the Whitecaps had been acquired by the NWHL was “finally, a professional women’s hockey team in Minnesota”.

Clearly, the biggest thing the Whitecaps are going to get out of this arrangement is exposure. The governor of Minnesota was at the press conference. The Minnesota Twins tweeted their support. A player from the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx posted a video demanding a jersey and promising to come to games. The Whitecaps have been around for 14 years and the 2018-19 season will likely see their largest home crowds ever.

That said, it was a little strange that the NWHL’s press conference didn’t capitalize on this exposure by announcing the dates of free agency camps, or season ticket deposits. There wasn’t even much mention of the June 1st start to free agency. The press conference got Minnesota’s attention, but it didn’t convert that attention into concrete ways to support the team.

Of course, as well as exposure for the Whitecaps team, this announcement brings a lot of positive exposure to the NWHL as a whole. Moreover, while it’s possible that some of the Olympians who played for the Whitecaps in the 2016-17 season may retire, this almost guarantees that gold medalists like Hannah Brandt and Kendall Coyne will finally be part of the NWHL. Most people expect most of the USWNT players to return to the league next season, but this will increase the number of Olympians in the league significantly.

The number of Olympians expected on the Minnesota roster also means this isn’t going to be a 1967 Minnesota North Stars sort of expansion team. It’s not even really going to be a Vegas Golden Knights, scrappy underdog sort of expansion team. This team is expected to be full of highly skilled players able to contend immediately, and we all know that one thing that keeps a hockey fan’s attention is winning.

Minnesota brands itself as the State of Hockey, and for the Whitecaps it may be a double edged sword. Yes, there are tons of hockey fans in the state, women’s hockey fans, even, but there are also tons of games to go to. The Wild might be the only NHL game in town but there are college and high school games of both genders going on throughout the season, often with fanatical followings. A lot of those games cost significantly less than the usual NWHL ticket price of twenty dollars a game. The Whitecaps will want to win to keep fans, but they have to get them in the door first.

One possible solution to this would be if the Whitecaps can partner with the University of Minnesota Gophers, who have a rink specifically dedicated to women’s hockey and a devoted fanbase of their own. Katie Million attended the NWHL press conference to represent the WCHA, so there may be some support from that side of things. The occasional Gophers / Whitecaps doubleheader might help convince fans to spend a few extra dollars.

Assuming that the NWHL playoff format doesn’t change, the addition of a fifth team means that finally, in the league’s fourth season, regular season games will mean something. With four teams in the league, every team made it to the playoffs. With an odd number of teams in the league, that’s likely to no longer be the case. One team will get left out in the cold. If it’s not the Whitecaps, who’s it going to be? NWHL fans have a reason to watch the standings. It gives the league an extra sense of legitimacy when not all teams are guaranteed a playoff spot.

The recent announcement of co-coaches Robb and Shivaun Stauber is another positive. While most NWHL teams have a woman on their coaching staff, all of the current head coaches are men. Having Shivaun Stauber announced as “co-coach” as opposed to “assistant coach” is a step in the right direction. And speaking of exposure, having the head coach of the 2018 Olympic champions as part of the staff is a bit of a coup.

However, this is where we get particularly concerned. The USWNT won the Olympics, yes, but there were complaints that the team culture was not the best, nor was Stauber the most popular coach. There’s a possibility that he may not attract as many Olympians as the NWHL would like. Also, the money.

It’s a frequent complaint about the NWHL. They’re not remotely transparent with where the money is coming from, nor where the money is going, which is especially concerning considering their history of financial issues. And despite the Pegulas’ purchase of the Buffalo Beauts, and the partnership between the New Jersey Devils and the Metropolitan Riveters, the benefit to the league as a whole has never been clearly defined. Now not only has the NWHL “acquired” the Minnesota Whitecaps (their own language, which would seem to imply some sort of transaction), they’re adding a team whose travel expenses will far exceed anything the league has seen before, and they’re adding a coach who... probably isn’t being paid peanuts.

Robb Stauber may have recently lost out on a coaching job with the University of Minnesota men’s team, and he may have history with the Whitecaps, but the coach of a gold medal winning team surely had more than one opportunity, and should usually expect to draw a sizeable salary.

So the NWHL may have paid money to acquire the Whitecaps, will definitely be paying a lot of money to fly teams back and forth from Minnesota, is likely paying one of their head coaches a decent sum... but NWHL salaries aren’t going up. That’s concerning. The NWHL spent their first season emphasizing the importance of paying their players a decent part-time wage, to the point of using it as a marketing tactic, before the mess of slashing salaries halfway through their second season. Expansion, although it may bring in more revenue in the long run, has evidently supplanted increasing pay on the league’s list of priorities. It’s a sign of a shift worth noting in the NWHL’s business strategy.

Also concerning, if forgiveable because it’s still quite early in the offseason, is the lack of a home rink as part of the announcement, or any definitive word about what the 2018-19 season will look like. Anybody trying to book a rink for a beer league knows how quickly ice time gets snapped up. Hopefully the league will have more on this situation soon.

Fans of elite level women’s hockey have been hoping the Whitecaps would join another league for seven years now. To see them take the first step back towards relevancy is exciting. Hopefully the team and the league will both be able to benefit from this expansion in the next season.

NWHL

NWHL Top Rookies: Hayley Scamurra - The Ice Garden

NWHL Top Rookies: Kelsey Koelzer - The Ice Garden

NWHL Top Rookies: Jenny Ryan - The Ice Garden

NWHL Top Rookies: Sydney Rossman - The Ice Garden

Beauts free agency landscape - Die By The Blade
Core players and skilled draft picks should be priority.

Boston Pride Free Agent Wish List for Summer of 2018
With NWHL Free Agency set to begin on June 1st, 2018, THW takes a look at the key signings the Boston Pride will need to make to get back to top form for the 2018-19 NWHL season.

Rink Ink: Q&A with Madison Packer - The Ice Garden
Madison Packer of the Metropolitan Riveters tells the story behind her tattoos.

Bad Puck Luck for Kelly Babstock - The Ice Garden
Kelly Babstock had an unlucky season on the ice for the Connecticut Whale.

CWHL

Women’s sports leagues standing shoulder to shoulder in SheIS cross-promotion initiative - The Globe and Mail
Increasing profile, viewership and attendance key for alliance of female pro leagues

10 Unforgettable CWHL and NWHL Goals - The Ice Garden
Are you ready for some highlight reel goals?

Progress for the Blades has been slow, but steady - The Ice Garden
This is another of Mike’s by-the-numbers articles but we can both attest, having seen the Blades play, they made significant strides this past season.

Q&A with the recently retired Jacquie Pierri - The Ice Garden
What’s changed, what’s next, and what she’ll miss after retiring from the Inferno

International hockey

Around the Rink - May 21 - The Ice Garden
News from around the world of women’s hockey

Cassie Campbell-Pascall to donate brain to concussion research - The Ice Garden
Women’s hockey pioneer Fran Rider also to donate her brain

The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica Ayala, May 11, 2018
Erica has some interesting thoughts on the inclusion of Katie Fitzgerald in the USWNT goalie camp.

Maura Crowell Named Head Coach of U.S. Under-18 Women's National Team for 2018-19 Season
Josh Sciba and Brianna Decker named assistant coaches

Shattuck alum, Olympic coach Sarah Murray to lead Owatonna girls hockey | News | southernminn.com
Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sarah Murray has been selected at the next girls hockey coach at Owatonna High School, pending school board approval, according to an Owatonna Public Schools press release.

Smooth pass for Team China - China.org.cn
China's vision of a historic 2022 Winter Olympics got a big boost on Thursday when the International Ice Hockey Federation voted to allow the host to enter its men's and women's teams in the Beijing tournament.

Adding more depth to the talent pool - China.org.cn
The CIHA has revealed that China will make its current passport-issuing policy work in favor of the Olympic program, but its naturalization radar will only target those with Chinese ancestry.

NCAA

2018 Windjammer Classic field announced - The Ice Garden
Syracuse, Minnesota, St. Lawrence join hosts Vermont in Burlington over Thanksgiving weekend

FRESH TALENT: Jeff Kampersal welcomes Class of 2022 to Penn State Women’s Hockey | News, Sports, Jobs - The Express
UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State women’s hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal has announced the addition of six future Penn State student-athletes to the class of 2

Women coaches keep winning in court, but losing careers - StarTribune.com
It's become a familiar pattern: A female coach wins a court judgment for her firing, while the man responsible for her firing gets rewarded.

U Sports

Marie-Philip Poulin rejoins McGill women’s hockey team as skills coach - The Globe and Mail
The two-time Olympic gold medalist took a hiatus from the Martlets coaching staff to train with the national team in preparation for the Winter Olympics

'Student of the game' named head coach of Laurier women’s hockey | WaterlooChronicle.ca
Kelly Paton, who led the Western Mustangs to a surprising Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship and silver medal at nationals this past season, was named the successor to the retiring Rick Osborne last Friday. She becomes the sixth head coach in program history and the first female to be named to the role.

Para ice hockey

Karina Villegas dreams of taking Para ice hockey to Latin America

Sled hockey gold medal just another goal accomplished by Monica Quimby | tbo.com
Monica Quimby keeps the puck from her first international goal inside the Manatee County home she shares with her husband and two step sons.

Brevard Sled hockey players joined Team USA in global championship
Members of the Space Coast Hurricanes joined Team USA sled hockey in a Czech Republic championship

FAME: Para women’s hockey growing › Medicine Hat News
A total of 11 hours on a plane followed by three hours on a bus led the Canadian Women’s National Sledge Hockey Team to Ostrava, Czech Republic for the Women’s International Para Ice Hockey World Cup.

NZWIHL (New Zealand)

News » New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation

AWIHL (Australia)

Perth Inferno 2018-19 team staff | Ice Hockey News Australia
The Inferno have announced four members of their team staff for their inaugural season in the Australian Women's Ice Hockey League.

European club hockey

SDHL (Sweden) Q & A with Brynäs IF’s Sonja van der Bliek - The Ice Garden
The longtime CWHL goaltender is ready for a new adventure in Sweden.

Report: SDHL, NWHL to Meet In Sweden - The Ice Garden
The Isobel Cup-winning Metropolitan Riveters may be headed to Norrbotten to face SDHL champions Luleå Hockey/MSSK.

SWHL (Switzerland) SC Reinach and SC Langenthal to work together - swisshockeynews.ch
The ladies of SC Reinach and SC Langenthal are going to work together for the upcoming season.

WHL (Russia) Women’s Hockey Update: May 15th, 2018 | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
The on-ice portion of the 2017-18 Russian women's hockey season wrapped up over the past couple of weeks with a couple of tournaments, and at the same time preparations for 2018-19 began in the Women's Hockey League.