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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Offseason in review

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It’s been a long time since the playoffs and we’ve still got a couple months go to til opening day. So what’s happened so far?

A pyramid of hockey pucks Chris Tanouye / CWHL

Story of the week

It’s been a relatively quiet week in the world of women’s hockey. A few signings and front office hires but nothing world-shaking in the big picture. But the offseason is long for North American pro teams and a lot has happened. Consider this your primer if you need to get caught up with the summer so far.

Hockey Hall of Fame

For the first time in a while, the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee chose to name a woman to the Hall in consecutive years. This year it was Jayna Hefford, a star on the international stage with Team Canada, as well as at the league level.

CWHL

The CWHL announced that Brenda Andress, the first and only commissioner the league has ever had, was stepping down. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford has been named interim commissioner (and has also put her name in as a candidate for the permanent position).

The Kunlun Red Star management group and the CWHL announced that the Vanke Rays would fold, leaving the league with a total of six teams, and only one in China. There will still be a second women’s team in Shenzhen, but their focus will be more on international competition. Some of the North American players who signed in China last year have already signed with other CWHL or NWHL teams for next season.

The 2018 CWHL Draft comes with a twist this year - general managers have a window between July 1 and August 17 to negotiate with and pre-sign their first and second round draft picks, bypassing the draft order. So far, Red Star have pre-signed two players (Kimberly Newell and Leah Lum), the Thunder have pre-signed one (Victoria Bach) and yesterday the Calgary Inferno pre-signed Halli Krzyzaniak.

Two big names moved into staff positions this offseason. NCAA coaching legend (and first Team Canada Olympic coach) Shannon Miller became the head coach of the Calgary Inferno, and CWHL co-founder Sami Jo Small abandoned her goal crease to become the GM of the Toronto Furies.

There have been several big free agent signings as well, and in the CWHL the biggest names were Olympic gold medalists Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy, who will both be playing for the Calgary Inferno next season. The Inferno have also signed former USWNT forward Zoe Hickel and, as mentioned, used their first pre-signing slot on Canadian national team defender Halli Krzyzaniak. GM Kristen Hagg has been busy this offseason.

Not to be outdone, Meg Hewings of les Canadiennes traded for Jill Saulnier and Geneviève Lacasse, bolstering Montreal’s roster with a pair of standout Olympians. The addition of Saulnier at forward almost feels excessive considering Montreal’s already-stacked top six—Poulin, Knight, Daoust, Bettez. Lacasse will be sharing a crease with Emerance Maschmeyer, a tandem that worked extremely well when they played together for the Inferno in 2016-17.

NWHL

The NWHL announced its first expansion team, acquiring the Minnesota Whitecaps, the last surviving member of the WWHL, who operated as an independent team for the last number of years. There were some shenanigans around whether or not Team USA coach Robb Stauber and his wife Shivaun would be the head coaches. Eventually, the answer was “not” and the Whitecaps went with founder Jack Brodt and original Whitecap Rhonda (Curtin) Engelhardt as their inaugural co-coaches.

The 2018-19 schedule is out and reveals that the Buffalo Beauts will have their first ever game in an NHL arena, a doubleheader with the Sabres on December 29.

Shannon Szabados will be playing women’s professional hockey for the first time, in a coup for both the NWHL and the Buffalo Beauts. The Beauts, entering their first full season as a property of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, have put an exclamation point on their impressive roster with Szabados, arguably the best goaltender in women’s hockey. It might be the biggest free agent signing of the summer.

The NWHL has also signed a host of US Olympians, most of whom are new to the league. Amanda Kessel announced she’s returning to the New York Riveters. Several former Minnesota Whitecaps have followed the team into the NWHL, including Hannah Brandt and Kendall Coyne, and they added blueliner Lee Stecklein. Forward Dani Cameranesi signed with the Beauts, as did goalie Nicole Hensley, giving Buffalo the best goalie tandem in women’s pro hockey.

What’s next?

There are still plenty of questions yet to be answered, including where will the remainder of the USWNT sign? Which CWHL team will get Sarah Nurse? What exactly will the new KRS roster look like? And, something not asked much yet this offseason — how much are these women getting paid this year? Hang around with us to see how the rest of the offseason plays out.

CWHL

Paul Kennedy Named Boston Blades Head Coach - Canadian Women's Hockey League
The Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) are excited to welcome Paul Kennedy as the new head coach.

‘You dream about playing for the Canadiens, and now I am’: Jillian Saulnier and Genevieve Lacasse discuss their trade - Eyes On The Prize
The two players are coming off of their Olympic journey to start a new chapter in Montreal.

From hockey camps to worlds bid, it's Saulnier's turn to inspire | The Chronicle Herald
The IIHF Women’s World Championship had a lasting effect on Halifax’s Jillian Saulnier. The Canadian Olympian was a bright-eyed, impressionable 12-year-old when her hometown last hosted the international hockey event.

CWHL News: Toronto Furies hire Kessel as head coach - Pension Plan Puppets
Courtney Kessel returns from Europe to coach her former rivals.

2018 CWHL Draft - Toronto Furies and Markham Thunder forward prospects - Pension Plan Puppets
We finish up our draft scouting series with the forwards.

Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker to play for Calgary Inferno - The Ice Garden
Two U.S. Olympians are moving out west

Calgary Inferno announce draft pre-signing of Halli Krzyzaniak - The Official Website of the Calgary Inferno | CWHL
The Calgary Inferno continue to add to their roster as the club announces the draft pre-signing of defenceman Halli Krzyzaniak.

Cayley Mercer plans Part 2 of unexpected Chinese hockey journey | The London Free Press
Cayley Mercer knew there would be lifestyle changes when she moved to China to play professional hockey.

CWHL Draft 2018: Markham Thunder pre sign prospect Victoria Bach - Pension Plan Puppets
The first GTA pre-signing is in and it’s a doozy.

NWHL

NWHL announces 2018-19 schedule - The Ice Garden
The schedule for the league’s fourth season is set!

2018 NWHL Free Agency Tracker - The Ice Garden
Your convenient one-stop shop for all the NWHL signing news. Highlight: Kendall Coyne Schofield re-signs with the Whitecaps.

Russo re-signing is huge for the Riveters’ offense - The Ice Garden
The defending Isobel Cup Champs are going to have plenty of speed

Kendall Coyne Schofield signs with the Minnesota Whitecaps - The Ice Garden
The Whitecaps have their superstar

International hockey

Gina Kingsbury takes over Hockey Canada women’s team | CBC Sports
Gina Kingsbury twice won Olympic hockey gold for Canada. She’s now in charge of getting the country back atop the women’s hockey podium.

Hockey Canada unveils coaching staffs, selection camp rosters for National Women’s Development and Under-18 Teams
Players, staff gather in Calgary for on- and off-ice sessions ahead of Canada-USA series

European club hockey

SWHL (Switzerland) Neuchâtel Hockey Academy enters partnership with SWHL B's Zunzgen-Sissach - swisshockeynews.ch

The women's teams of Neuchâtel Hockey Academy (SWHL A) and Basel-based EHC Zunzgen-Sissach will team up as of next season.

Europe-bound Seabrook's Leary ready for new hockey challenge | Local Sports | newburyportnews.com
Accomplished at every level of hockey, Seabrook’s Kate Leary is taking on a new opportunity overseas.

WHL (Russia) Women’s Hockey Update: July 30th, 2018 (Updated) | CONWAY'S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
More player moves in the Women's Hockey League since the last update, including a couple more big signings by SKIF Nizhny Novgorod!

AWIHL (Australia)

AWIHL news: 28 July 2018 | Ice Hockey News Australia
Perth Inferno - The Inferno have announced the signing of American forward Elizabeth Scala for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

AWIHL news: 27 July 2018 | Ice Hockey News Australia
Melbourne Ice - The Ice have announced the signing of Swiss forward Bettina Meyer for the upcoming 2018-19 season.