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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Brenda Andress leaves behind a strong CWHL

Jayna Hefford is only one of a number of new leaders being introduced around women’s hockey this week.

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CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress (centre) participates in the ceremonial faceoff at Kunlun Red Star’s inaugural game.
CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress (centre) participates in the ceremonial faceoff at Kunlun Red Star’s inaugural game.
Jess Bazal / CWHL

Story of the Week

Andress continues to believe in ‘one league’ as she departs as CWHL commissioner – TheHockeyNews

Interim CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford eyes unified women’s hockey league - The Globe and Mail

While it was tempting to change the story of the week to the surprise signings of free agents and 2018 Olympic gold medalists Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy to the Calgary Inferno, the actual story of the week is the departure of the woman who has been the face of the CWHL to many for most of the league’s existence. Brenda Andress has been with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League since the beginning, although she only became commissioner in the second season.

Having read countless interviews and been in a scrum with her, I can say that she wasn’t exactly the media’s best friend. She controlled the narrative as best she could by only answering the questions she wanted to answer, and not always in the most gentle of ways. Still, that was part of her job, to champion and defend a not-for-profit league that sometimes struggled to survive.

Whether everything the CWHL has accomplished in its eleven seasons can be laid directly at Andress’ feet is debatable — if it takes a village to raise a child it takes many more than that to raise a league. Still, it can’t be denied that she leaves it a much stronger entity than it was when she became commissioner.

When Brenda became commissioner in 2008, the league had just contracted from seven teams to six, and it shared the North American women’s hockey landscape with another league, the WWHL in the west. In 2018, the league has just contracted again from seven teams to six and is in competition with another league, the NWHL in the United States. Plus ca change, right?

Yeah, actually, things have changed a lot! The CWHL has now begun to pay its players. It has had nationally broadcast games, not only of the playoffs but of some regular season games. There are national team and former national team players from not only Canada but China, Japan, Finland, Russia and the United States playing in the league. There have been games in several NHL arenas. You can buy team merch online! The CWHL has seen the collapse of one league and the birth of another and it continues to grow. Brenda Andress might not deserve all of the credit for that, but she certainly deserves a fair bit.

Meanwhile, is having Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford as interim commissioner a good move? Publicity-wise it’s a home run. As a business move, time will tell. It’s interesting that while Donna Spencer’s piece indicates that Hefford “has put her name forth as a candidate for the job permanently”, Andress speaks as if Hefford is it going forward. Whether that’s an indication that Hefford is expected to be rubber-stamped as commissioner at the next annual general meeting, or just an expectation that CEO-level searches (which, for the CWHL, is the commissioner’s role) often take a while, only Brenda can say.

Now that the CWHL is paying their players, the media’s favourite question (encouraged, to some extent, by the players’ campaign) is about one league. Despite the provocative headline, Hefford doesn’t have a definitive answer yet, nor should she. While she was part of the CWHL for many years as a player and has stayed in touch with the league, particularly her team the Thunder, since, this is her first first-hand look at all the high-level dealings. (Second-hand, it must be stated that Hefford’s partner, Kathleen Kauth was, until recently a director on the league’s board of governors. I’m sure Hefford’s not going in entirely blind.) She’s still got lots to learn before she can truly weigh in.

Meanwhile the draft is coming up, with lots of exciting new talent, and teams continue to sign free agents. The 2018-19 season is going to be an interesting year for the CWHL, but it looks like it’s going to be a good one.

Women’s hockey leagues of North America chart linked from this 2016 article by Erin Bartuska at Stanley Cup of Chowder.

CWHL

CWHL News: Free agent Jess Jones signs with Markham Thunder - Pension Plan Puppets
The 2016-17 Angela James Bowl winner is returning to the CWHL

USWNT standouts Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy sign with CWHL's Calgary Inferno
U.S. gold medalists Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy, both former Boston Pride stars in the NWHL, will play with the Calgary Inferno of the CWHL this upcoming season.

Mélodie Daoust reflects on an impressive year - The Ice Garden
The Canadian Olympian talks about the Olympics, the CWHL, coaching

NWHL

2018 NWHL Free Agency Tracker - The Ice Garden
Your convenient one-stop shop for all the NWHL signing news. Highlights: the Riveters sign one new and one returning player.

Minnesota Whitecaps: Golden Gophers Galore as Schipper Signs
Kate Schipper: “I hope to establish the Whitecaps as a competitor in the NWHL while continuing to advance girls’ hockey in Minnesota and across the U.S.”

Boston Pride look to bounce back to top of NWHL - The Ice Garden
Can the Boston Pride return to their winning ways after a disappointing 2017-18 season?

One-On-One With Buffalo Beauts Rookie Savannah Harmon
THW caught up with Buffalo Beauts rookie defender Savannah Harmon this summer so that we could get to know her better before the 2018-19 NWHL season begins.

Amanda Kessel to headline NWHL game in Cranberry | TribLIVE
U.S. Olympic gold medalist Amanda Kessel will be the feature attraction for a National Women's Hockey League game played at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex

Beauts to make KeyBank Center debut, hold Dec. 29 twin bill with Sabres – The Buffalo News
The full Beauts schedule will be announced by the NWHL later this week. The Dec. 29 game is one of eight at home, with the other seven slated at HarborCenter.

VIDEO: Madison Packer brings NWHL’s Isobel Cup to Little Caesars Arena

International hockey

Olympic women’s hockey tournament expands to 10 teams - Sportsnet.ca
Two more teams will get a chance to compete for medals in women’s hockey at the 2022 Olympics as the International Olympic Committee has approved a request to expand the field from eight to 10.

Breaking the ice: inside Korea’s unified women’s ice hockey team | Delayed Gratification
On 20th January Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), confirmed that the two nations would march together at the Pyeongchang Games’ opening ceremony on 9th February.

US Women’s Olympic Hockey team wins Best Game at ESPYs awards - The Ice Garden
All this team does is win win win no matter what

Angela Frautschi steps down from position in women’s national team - swisshockeynews.ch
Angela Frautschi has decided to step down from her position as assistant coach of the Swiss national team. Melanie Häfliger will succeed her.

This Latina Photographer Commemorated Mexico’s Undervalued And Yet Most Valuable Women’s Hockey Team On Actual Trading Cards - Fierce
(okay so some of the narrative around the team in this piece comes from a Bleacher Report article that Mexican National Team captain Claudia Tellez ethered in this tweet but the cards themselves are SO COOL)

Aspen Leafs hockey to host Mexican national teams during Fall Faceoff | AspenTimes.com
Aspen Junior Hockey announced earlier this week that it will host five teams selected by the Mexico Ice Hockey Federation in October’s annual Fall Faceoff, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The headliner will be Mexico’s national women’s team, which will compete in the 19U AA division.

RPI Engineers - Selander Invited to Swedish National Team Camp
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) student-athlete Lovisa Selander has earned an invitation to the Swedish Women’s National Team Camp, which will run from August 17-21 in Boson and Uppsala, Sweden.

U Sports

Manitoba Bison Women’s Hockey Introduces Coach Sean Fisher
The Manitoba Bison women’s hockey team will have a new head coach for the 2018-19 season, Sean Fisher.

Panthers add to its staff as it prepares to host women’s nationals the next two seasons | Hockey | Sports | The Guardian
The UPEI Panthers know they need to be better and are taking the steps to try and get there.

NCAA

Ice hockey overtime proposal modified | NCAA.org - The Official Site of the NCAA
The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee voted to alter its overtime proposals after receiving membership feedback.

Annie Pankowski, Sophia Shaver named captains for Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team | Wisconsin Badgers Hockey | madison.com
Annie Pankowski, who missed the 2017-18 season while chasing a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, will join Sophia Shaver as Badgers captains for the 2018-19 season.

European club hockey

WHL (Russia) Women’s Hockey Update: July 17th, 2018 | CONWAY’S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
As the new season nears (indications are that the Women’s Hockey League season will begin on September 9th), the pace of news in Russian women’s hockey is also picking up.

Mestis (Finland) Q & A with Saara Niemi of HIFK - The Ice Garden
After taking her coaching talent to China, Saara Niemi returns home to Finland to head a unique initiative.

AWIHL

Perth Inferno confirmed for 2018-19 | Ice Hockey News Australia
The Perth Inferno have been confirmed as the fifth team in the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League.

AWIHL news: 24 July 2018 | Ice Hockey News Australia
Melbourne Ice - The Ice have announced the re-signing of Canadian forward Christina Julien for the upcoming 2018-19 season.