The CWHL announced today that the league's board of directors has approved the recommendations of their expansion task force, who's job it is to find key markets for potential expansion in the future.
The expansion task force, led by former CWHL star Caitlin Cahow, has identified the cities of Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul as key markets for potential growth. The CWHL appears to be interested in expanding the league into the United States, as opposed to another team joining the Calgary Inferno in Western Canada. Currently, the Boston Blades are the only CWHL franchise in the U.S.
One of the major factors that played into the decision of choosing theses two cities, is the high concentration of elite women hockey players not currently playing professional hockey.
For months now, we have heard speculation of CWHL expansion into the U.S. Midwest. Other potential markets included Detroit, and New York - which has probably been ruled out after the NWHL landed a franchise in New York City.
Minnesota, specifically the Twin Cities, is loaded with incredible female hockey players. The 5-time (including last year) NCAA Champion, Minnesota Golden Gophers are based in Minnesota, as is the University of Minnesota-Duluth, which also has a fantastic women's hockey program.
Meanwhile, Chicago is also a fantastic option for expansion. The WNBA's Chicago Sky has a strong following, and women's sport is thriving in the hockey-hotbed of Chicago.
Commissioner Brenda Andress has noted the need for expansion, and it appears the league is prepared to take action.
"Our strategic plan has always envisioned further expansion in to the US market, and we are pleased that the board has shown its support to move forward at this time," said CWHL commissioner, Brenda Andress. "We will build from our success in the Boston area and enter in to talks with parties in Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul, as well as select Canadian markets. Until the CWHL, or any league, can pay players a living wage, it is incumbent on us to provide players with the opportunity to play in markets where they live, work and study."
It's not expected that the league will expand for the upcoming 2015-2016 season.