Mid-Week Roundup: Mainly NWHL news, NWHL pre-season games!

NWHL Pre-Season Games!

  • The Buffalo Beauts beat the Mercyhurst women’s team, 4-1. Check out the NWHL’s recap!
  • The East Coast Wizards U16 Boys beat the Boston Pride, 3-2
  • FDNY beat the New York Riveters, 6-2. The NWHL recapped this game.
  • The Conneticut Whale beat the CT Junior Rangers U18 Boys, 7-4.

Stuff to Read Elsewhere:

  • The NWHL announced their last signing, Meghan Duggan, bringing us to the full 72 player roster. Kate Cimini at Today’s Slap Shot wrote about it.
  • Matt Larkin of The Hockey Writers wrote about who the highest-paid players in the NWHL would be. He also had some details on player contracts:

    THN has also learned that players must notify their coaches and GM at least 30 days in advance if they know they will miss a game or practice, barring an emergency or medical problem. Missing games and practices will result in salary deductions.

    Larkin also confirmed that, although jerseys are currently the only player-branded merchandise, in the future, players will receive their 15% from all merchandise with their name or likeness.

  • The NWHL posted all official player salaries! Sadly, the league will apparently not be making more details of player contracts public, as had previously been hoped.
  • Tara Tomimoto, previously reported as signed with the Connecticut Whale, had visa issues and was released, but the NWHL doesn’t anticipate other players having visa issues.
  • Kate Cimini spoke to Kacey Bellamy about playing on the Boston Pride. One of the most interesting things to me was Bellamy’s comments about her Merrimack commitments, where she also coaches.

    “For me, right now, the priority is Merrimack, so any time I have a Merrimack and Pride conflict I go to the Merrimack (event),” said Bellamy. “I think I have to miss six Pride games, about four or five practices.”

    With each NWHL team playing only 18 games in the regular season, 9 home and 9 away, missing 6 games is a fairly substantial number. There are several other players in the NWHL with coaching commitments as well, including Meghan Duggan. It’ll be interesting to see how many games those players manage, and how this impacts teams with such short rosters.

  • Connor Jennings at Powerplay Insiders thinks Megan Bozek will be one of the NWHL’s top defenders.

A Brief New York Riveters Season Preview

Late September in New York… the mornings are cold, the coffee is full of pumpkin and HOCKEY IS BACK. Over the last few weeks, the New York Riveters have been gearing up for the season with their first practice, media day, equipment fitting, and a pre-season tilt against the FDNY team. I hope in my heart of hearts that they are all settling in well to the enormous Zoolander-esque 18-person Bushwick loft I’m imagining them sharing. It’s full of light and always has at least one bathtub full of hockey pads. (It’s definitely weird how bad I want all of the Riveters to be best friends.)

(Edit – apparently, according to this article, many of the Riveters are living in two big “athlete houses” outside of Brooklyn. All of my dreams are coming true. I’m an oracle.)

PRESEASON

The Riveters have two preseason games—the first was on September 27th against the squad from the Fire Department of New York (I don’t know why they’re playing each other, but I love it) at their home rink, Aviator, out in Brooklyn. FDNY won 6-2 in regulation, with Riveters goals coming from Janine Weber and Brooke Ammerman, as well as a goal by Gabie Figueroa in a practice 4-on-4 and a practice shootout goal by Madison Packer. I wasn’t at the game myself, but saw commentary that even within the span of one game, the team was visibly coalescing and improving, which is to be expected given that their entire team isn’t even in the country yet (Luuudaaaa) and, y’know, it’s the pre-season.

The second pre-season game will be next Sunday, October 4th, at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan—I’m extremely excited to be attending, and will be reporting back with commentary and hot takes from the front. The Riveters are going up against the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women’s Hockey League, a team whose roster includes players like the two-time U.S. Olympian Lamoureux twins (Two times each. Four medals. All of the math tutoring was worth it). It’s cool to see the NWHL working with and playing against a WWHL team—I’m hoping it’s a sign that some of the Highlander Syndrome that Kate so eloquently tackled previously will die down and that multiple leagues are closer to thriving in the women’s hockey world. I’ll be tweeting @annalisebissa and writing up my experience at the game for Watch This, so keep an eye out!

REGULAR SEASON

The regular season begins for the Riveters on October 11th—an away game against the Whale—and then returns to Brooklyn for the home opener on the 18th. The Riveters will play nine home games and nine away (three at each of their rivals’ rinks) over the course of the regular season (through February), and playoffs will take place during March (fingers crossed!). The team will also participate in an exhibition game against the Japanese national team in December and the NWHL All-Star game in Buffalo in late January.

I’ll be back soon with all of the Riveters news that’s fit to make #jokes about, including the death of the Rivs’ #KnightWatch dream, collecting cans out of the trash to pay for student season tickets (crosses fingers for student season ticket packages), tackling public transit out to Aviator and so much more!

Final Four Signings For The Connecticut Whale

Free agent frenzy entered stage two this week, as the eleven under-wraps NWHL contracts were released to the media, and though Hilary Knight going to the Pride was probably the biggest, the Connecticut Whale signed four outstanding players of their own, including Knight’s national team teammate, Kelli Stack.

Kelli Stack (Boston College)

Two time Olympian Stack is probably the biggest name on this list. She broke countless records during her time at BC, scoring 209 points in only 140 games played, and finishing as a top three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. In her senior year alone she had 59 points, including a career high 34 goals, and she was the first player ever to become a three-time Hockey East Player of the Year. In her time with the USWNT, she has two Olympic silver medals from 2010 and 2014, and three World Championship golds, as well as skating in five Four Nations Cups, leading the tournament in scoring in 2011 and 2013. She was also named Player of the Game in the gold medal game against the Canadians in the 2011 World Championships. In a team already stacked with players like Molly Engstrom, Jessica Koizumi and Yekaterina Smolentseva, Stack is going to fit right in.

Lindsay Berman (Northeastern)

Yet another Blades alumni, Berman was signed after unforeseen visa problems with free agent Tara Tomimoto. While at Northeastern, she registered 62 points in 135 games played for the Huskies, and in her sophomore year led all Hockey East defencewomen in power play points with 12. Unlike most players, Berman switched between forward and defence for most of her hockey career, and can easily give the Whale some roster flexibility. She played for the Blades between 2010 and 2014, winning the Clarkson Cup with them in 2013, and she also coached during that time at U-Mass and Brown University.

Alyssa Wohlfeiler (Northeastern)

A teammate of Berman’s from 2007-2010, Wohlfeiler registered 71 points in 132 games for the Huskies, led the team in game winning goals her junior year, and was second on the team in rookie scoring in her freshman year. In 2006-07, the California native captained the California Select U-19 team, where she scored 38 points in 34 games.

Jordan Brickner (Wisconsin)

Brickner actually split her NCAA time between Colgate and Wisconsin, collecting a total of 43 points in 140 games with the two teams. In her senior year with the Badgers, she had the third highest shooting percentage, and during her whole Wisconsin career, she accumulated 0 PIMs. Before college, Brickner played for the Connecticut Stars, where she helped them win a New England District title, and a third place finish at the USA Hockey National Championships.

CWHL leading talks about the future of women’s hockey with NWHL, NHL

Rumor earlier this week on Twitter was that the NWHL and the CWHL would be meeting in New York City to talk with the NHL. On Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015, a press release was sent out from the CWHL that indeed, the CWHL would be “leading a discussion this week with key stakeholders in the women’s game including the NHL and NWHL”.

This was, rumor aside, pretty out of the blue. The CWHL responded initially to the establishment of the NWHL with a somewhat icy announcement that they would be “taking all necessary steps and measures to protect its interests”. According to an August 16th, 2015 Periscope Q&A from the Boston Blades GM, Krista Patronick, neither the Blades or the NWHL’s Boston Pride had approached each other about steps towards partnership or cross-promotion. So, these talks were a bit of a different tune. Our first question was, what are these talks about? Partnering, merging, what?

According to a CWHL league representative who responded to our email, “The CWHL has instigated this meeting to talk about the future of our leagues and to ensure that what happens going forward is best for women’s hockey continued growth and success.”
While we reached out to the NWHL as well, they weren’t able to provide a comment on what the talks were about.

Neither league provided a comment on what the NHL’s role would be in these talks. It’s important to note that, while several individual CWHL teams (but not all) have partnerships with individual NHL teams, it is our understanding that there is not a partnership between the leagues. Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, went on the record last year to say that, although the NHL has looked into women’s hockey, they thought “the overall development at women’s hockey at the grassroots level through the college level isn’t at the point where a pro league is viable.” With that in mind, what is the role of the NHL in these talks? The CWHL referenced “key stakeholders in women’s hockey”, but while the NHL may have a stake in the growth of hockey in general, they are not formally committed to women’s hockey, or either professional women’s hockey league. Perhaps they are present as a mediator, or an advisor to the leagues?

The timing of these talks surprises me, so close to the beginning of the season for both the CWHL and the NWHL. As of now, hopeful as I am for them, the NWHL is an unproven league. While talks between the two leagues could be useful, to be honest, I’d prefer to see the CWHL focus on improving its own product– improving their branding, game information, streaming, paying their players, etc. We’ve already seen their steps in that direction with the Montreal Stars re-brand, and their change in social media and marketing director.

Weekly News: NWHL Tickets, Kacey Bellamy, and NCAA Games

  • Tickets for the NWHL’s pre-season games are on sale! Unlike my prediction of free, the tickets cost $5 USD, except for the Mercyhurst games, which are free. Additionally, it turns out that the final East Coast Wizards teams that the Pride will play are both boys teams– the U16, and the U18 teams.
  • Keep on scrolling past the pre-season games, and you’ll see that single game tickets for the NWHL go on sale September 24th, 12:01 AM Eastern! That’s tomorrow.
  • Brampton Thunder’s new head coach, Tyler Fines, starts practices.
  • Lexie Hoffmeyer is not playing this year! The CWHL’s twitter presence will be the worse for it. She will be coaching, not sure where yet, and will also still be involved with the Furies in some capacity.

Connecticut Whale Free-Agency Recap

The NWHL free agency period finished last month! While there are still 11 contracts under wraps because of contract issues with former teams, there are fifteen known players signed with the Connecticut Whale as of mid-September. The roster includes Olympians like Chelsea Laden, and ex-CWHLers like Jessica Koizumi (formerly of the Boston Blades), adding up to eight forwards, four defence, and three goalies.

Forwards

Shiann Darkangelo (Quinnipac)

Darkangelo, one of the three inaugural Connecticut Whale contract signings, led the Bobcats in goals in her junior year, and finished her NCAA career with 102 points in 144 games. She also has a silver medal from her time with the US Team at the 2014 Four Nations Cup.

Sam Faber (New Hampshire)

Faber has already had a taste of pro hockey, cutting her teeth in the CWHL with the Boston Blades in their inaugural season in 2010-11. She amassed 189 points in 143 games at New Hampshire, and finished top ten in Patty Kazmaier voting in 2007-08.

Jessica Koizumi (Minnesota Duluth)

As captain of the Bulldogs for two years, Koizumi finished her college career with 155 points in 132 games. As a member of the CWHL’s Boston Blades, she won the Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015, and a silver medal in 2007 as part of Team USA at the Four Nations Cup.

Danielle Ward (Maine)

Ward spent her NCAA career with two different teams, totalling 114 points in 117 games with Maine and the University of Southern Maine, and at USM, was named a recipient of the Husky Athletic Academic Achievement Award.

Michala Long (New Hampshire)

Long is another Boston Blades alumni, playing for them in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, collecting 25 points in 38 games. At New Hampshire, she played in four consecutive NCAA tournaments, three conference regular season championships, and two Hockey East tournament titles. She finished her college career with 126 points (without missing a single game) and a Patty Kazmaier nomination.

Kelly Babstock (Quinnipac)

Babstock is the all time scoring leader for Quinnipac University. As a freshman, she finished fifth in the nation in scoring, and didn’t slow down until her senior year, where she finished her college career with 203 points in 147 games, and four straight New England Division I All-Star bid. She was also the first Quinnipac player to finish top ten in Patty Kazmaier voting.

Brittany Dougherty (Maine)

Dougherty finished her NCAA career with 100 points in 128 games, and in her sophomore year led the team in scoring and points, repeating the feat again in her junior year, garnering Hockey Easy Honourable Mentions honours in 2012-13, and being named a Hockey East Second Team All Star.

Yekaterina Smolentseva (Russia)

Four-time Olympian Smolentseva is potentially the highest profile Whale signing of the summer. She’s played for the Russian National Team since 1999, has 35 points in 8 Women’s Worlds appearances, and led the team in scoring for three consecutive years (2007, 2008, 2009). She’s also competed in 4 straight Olympic games, with 14 points across those tournaments and was named captain for the squad during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Defence

Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston University)

Fratkin has the honour of being the first defencewoman signed by the Whale. During her senior season at college, she served as assistant captain and helped to lead BU to a Hockey East conference championship before finishing her NCAA career with 66 points in 151 games. Prior to this, she was the first woman to play in the BC Provincial league, winning the championship in 2010 with the Vancouver North West Giants. Yet another Boston Blades alumni, she won the Clarkson Cup with them in 2015, and also has a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2015 Four Nations Cup.

Tara Tomimoto (Yale)

Tomimoto graduated in 2014, after captaining the Bulldogs in her senior season and leading her team in assists in her junior season (second in points). She graduated with 46 points in 105 games over four years, and was named to the ECAC All-Academic Team for three years running.

Shannon Doyle (Boston University)

Doyle started her college career at Colgate, but played out of BU for her final two years, and totalled 78 points in 137 games with both the Raiders and the Terriers. With the Terriers, she was named a Hockey East First Team All Star and a New England Division I All Star, and in her senior season was one of only three players to block more than 100 shots, blocking a total of 106 shots all season.

Molly Engstrom (University of Wisconsin)

Engstrom is a two-time Olympian, winning silver in 2010 with Team USA, and bronze in 2006, becoming one of the two first Wisconsin players to represent Team USA. She has played over 100 games for Team USA, and has won four World Championship gold medals (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011) and two silver (2004, 2007). Engstrom has also played for the CWHL, playing with the Brampton Thunder in its first CWHL season in 2008, before playing for the Minnesota Whitecaps, returning to the Thunder, and ending her CWHL career with the Boston Blades in 2013, after winning the Clarkson Cup.

Goaltenders

Chelsea Laden (Quinnipac)

Laden has made history as the first player to ever sign with the Connecticut Whale, and is probably the smartest bet for their starting goaltender. She finished college with a .926 save percentage, a 1.56 GAA, and an incredible 26 shutouts in 88 games. Because of her performance this past season (.930 SV%, 1.16 GAA and 16 shutouts), she was named Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year by the ECAC.

Nicole Stock (Brown)

At Brown, Stock played 91 games, and finished her career with a 2.75 GAA and a .921 save percentage after facing over 3000 shots on goal. In her freshman year she split time in goal, but shone with a 1.60 GAA and a .938 save percentage to steal the starting gig her sophomore year, which she kept until graduation.

Jaimie Leonoff (Yale)

Leonoff played 99 games for the Bulldogs in total from 2011 to 2015, and had the starting gig from the 2012-13 season onwards. By graduation, she held records in save percentage (.918), GAA (2.96), saves (3107) and wins (26), and was selected team MVP in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

 

There are still four forwards and two defencewomen whose details haven’t officially been released, but as soon as they are, this post will be updated with their names and details. If you want to read more about the Whale, Kate Cimini wrote about their first practice/media day over at Today’s Slapshot!

THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE: or, why women’s hockey isn’t the Highlander

Ever since the NWHL was just a rumor on Twitter, people have been predicting a merger with the CWHL. It seems natural– two leagues, based on the two different sides of the US-Canada border, drawing from the same talent pool of players. Why not have a combined league, they said, and have all these players play each other? Cross-border promotion, the highest-quality talent playing each other, great hockey, and Bob’s your uncle!

Here’s the problem with this idea: it’s framed in a deeply sexist way, and often ignores the very real differences between the NWHL and the CWHL.

First, the idea of the two leagues merging is frequently couched in terms of “women working together.” Much of the argument is framed through the idea that if these women really wanted to make an impact, they would work together and not against each other, that this kind of divide needlessly splinters the talent pool.

This assumes that in order to make the most impact, women have to play nice and work together.

When is the last time independent businesses were told by the public that a merger was the only way forward?

Apple and Microsoft were never told to bury their philosophical differences and become one company so they could be more successful. In fact, their competition ended in the creation of products that many of us use on an hourly basis to organize our lives, do our work, and connect with family. The personal computer market is richer and more varied for their competition.

However, the CWHL and the NWHL aren’t just being told they need to do that to become more successful, but are in fact being told that the only way to become successful at all is to smile, bury the hatchet, and become one league. With most businesses, including men’s professional sports leagues, we assume that they can differentiate their product and succeed–– or they will fail. With women’s hockey, and women’s sport in general, the assumption is often made that they need outside help and no competition to succeed at any level. That is grossly sexist.

We live in a society where unfair and unbalanced expectations are put on women, especially women athletes. Women’s sports leagues need to navigate that as best they can, but that doesn’t mean we, as fans, need to also put that expectation on our leagues.

Women do not need to smile and play nice to be successful.

And women’s sports don’t need to be protected from competition in order to succeed.

From a pure business standpoint, the idea that only one league can succeed is also busted. How many pro, paid men’s hockey leagues does North America have? A hell of a lot more than just the NHL, buddy.

Looking outside of hockey, the CFL and the NFL come to mind. Though the two leagues sell the same sport, in the end they market different products when taking into account their set-up, their marketing approaches, and more. They’re really different in terms of the levels of their financial success– but at the end of the day, they are both successful, paid professional leagues. (The comparison stands even if I don’t want to see women’s hockey ever take a page from the NFL’s concussion management and labor practices handbooks.)

Arguing that the talent pool is too small to sustain two leagues is a smokescreen for the sexist idea that women must cooperate to be successful. Perhaps it’s a misconception of exactly how many high-end players there are, and the Olympic Games are a likely culprit. Each country’s Olympic rosters are only so large, and with international play being the only place a lot of fans know players from, it might very well have fostered this misunderstanding. Now, with two leagues rostered, we’ve seen that the elite talent pool for women’s hockey player is larger than it’s largely been thought to be.

While there might be a brief dilution of talent, as players move to the league and team that suits them best, it’s in a lot of ways a re-balancing of the scales.

The CWHL’s Boston Blades didn’t get to be the overwhelming juggernaut you may remember from last season without being the most accessible option for US players, after all, and particularly US Olympic players, who are often encouraged to stay and train in the Boston area. By “diluting” the talent pool, the addition of a league ensures that more players will get time with these Olympic-caliber players, will learn from them and grow their own abilities.

The quality of player will only increase as time goes on. The more players see that there’s the opportunity for a hockey career after college, the more non-North American players see that there are elite pro opportunities period for them, the more players we’ll see interested in playing at the elite level. We’ve already started to see non-North American players that we normally only see at the second-tier Worlds or some Olympics start to come out of the woodwork. The more players who don’t have to choose between paying their car loan after college or putting their time and money into playing the best hockey they can, the more we’ll see the pool grow.

Second, arguing for a merger between the CWHL and the NWHL ignores the very real differences between the two leagues. In all fairness, we don’t know a ton about how the NWHL will operate. They’re a squeaky new league, just starting their first practices, while the CWHL has years of operation and successes under its belt. The CWHL has some big name sponsors: Bauer, Rodgers, Under Armour, and more, as well as NHL team partnerships for multiple teams. The NWHL’s funding is unknown, and their announced sponsors are much less prominent.

But what we do know is this: The NWHL has very different priorities than the CWHL. The NWHL is already demonstrably a players-first league; their commitment to paying players, to providing all the gear and medical care players need to compete at an elite level has already been shown. They also have tried to be very transparent about this. Concussion baseline tests were done for players at their first practice, equipment fittings done in front of media, and a players’ association was one of the first things announced by the league. Admittedly, it’s sometimes been a little rough, and things haven’t always been as polished as they could have been. The NWHL’s draft model, for example, was changed partway through due to NCAA regulations. 11 players have committed to the league whose names we don’t know, and so on. That aside, the NWHL is a league clearly trying to be bold, transparent, and player-first.

The CWHL, on the other hand, heavily values sustainable growth, and has been insistent on ensuring they have the budget in place before pursuing their end goal: raising the profile of women’s hockey while providing a place for the best female hockey players in the world to train and compete. They have been aggressively courting sponsors, and working on creating and growing ties to their local communities. They have a large emphasis on growing the love of hockey in young girls as well, trying to #GrowTheGame as we hear all the time. The CWHL wants to provide high quality training and competition for players, and as such part of their goal is to pay players and enable them to spend more of their time on hockey and not on paying the bills. They want to expand, but responsibly, and they want to make sure teams are placed in locations that will embrace them. The CWHL has focused on having clinics and meet-and-greets for young women and girls, so that they can meet and learn from the best in the world. It’s apparent the CWHL is taking a slow and steady wins the race approach– they want to last, and the way they think they can best support women’s hockey overall, their league, and their players is by taking their growth one step at a time.

What the constant call for merger misses is that the two leagues, with their two very different approaches, might not be compatible. To top it off, we don’t yet know which is more successful. The CWHL has sustained itself this long, but they are already changing and improving in response to the competition of the NWHL. In a few short months they have gotten a better social media team together and are starting to provide more equipment to players.

I’m not totally against the idea of collaboration or, even, eventually a merger between the two leagues. I think collaboration could be fun. Each league’s champions playing for a trophy or bragging rights sounds like a great idea to me. Someday a merger might be the right thing for each league. But it’s not a forgone conclusion, and indeed may never occur. This insistence that the two women’s leagues take their separate models, staff, and players and combine them devalues the very real choices that each league has made in how they position themselves. It’s also, in no small way, sexist.

Buffalo Beauts First Practice and Media Day

The tattoo on Buffalo Beauts forward Erin Zach’s left arm reads, “Nothing is impossible.” As a member of Western New York’s first-ever paid professional women’s hockey team, in the first modern paid women’s hockey league in North America, it certainly rings true.

The Beauts stepped onto the ice as a unit for the first time Wednesday evening at the Harborcenter’s First Niagara Rink. In a session lasting about five and a half hours, players got fitted for equipment and skates, took headshots, did video introductions, spoke with the media and then, after a dinner break, finally got out to practice.

Everyone seemed animated and anxious to get onto the ice, a sentiment confirmed by goaltender Brianne McLaughlin when asked about it in the players’ press conference.

“It’s like when you’re looking forward to vacation and time is going by really slow, and then when you’re on vacation it’s going to go by really fast,” she said, laughing alongside new teammates Zach and forward Devon Skeats.

Brianne McLaughlin trying out goalie pants and shells. #buffalobeauts #NWHL

A photo posted by Angelica Renee (@reinadelaisla) on

In fact, McLaughlin, Skeats and Zach were the first to sign with the Beauts, who have 18 players altogether on their roster (three as of yet unconfirmed due to unfinalized contract negotiations). A lineup heavy on speed and offensive skill, it also boasts a considerable amount of regionally-based talent including three former RIT Tigers in Zach, forward Kourtney Kunichika and defender Lindsay Grigg. Goaltender Kimberly Sass actually hails from the Buffalo area; she graduated from Williamsville North High School and is currently working on her thesis in architecture at the University at Buffalo. Playing with the Beauts allows her to continue school while playing the game she loves. “It’s a dream come true,” she said of the opportunity. “Growing up in the area and getting to play professionally after college… I didn’t think I was going to be able to play again.” Faced with the decision to either focus on her career or leave behind all she knew to try and play professionally in Europe, Sass chose her career and stayed in hockey by way of coaching and playing in state tournaments like the Empire State Games. Now, she has the chance at the best of both worlds. “Once I heard of the league, I knew this was something I had to be a part of,” she said. “With it being a month away, I just can’t wait till October when the games actually start. “Seeing friends and family in the stands will be quite the experience.” Also part of the experience: playing and learning under another pioneer of the game in Shelley Looney, one of the two head coaches for the Buffalo Beauts. Looney played in Nagano, Japan on the 1998 Olympic team that won the U.S. its first-ever gold medal in women’s hockey (in fact, she scored the game-winner in the gold medal game). Now director of the Buffalo Bison Hockey Association, which is a youth travel league, she is also working alongside former NHLer Ric Seiling behind the Beauts’ bench.

Head coaches Looney, Ric Seiling, and GM Linda Mroz. #buffalobeauts #NWHL A photo posted by Angelica Renee (@reinadelaisla) on

During practice, the coaches worked in tandem, with Seiling starting drills and Looney occasionally halting play to provide feedback for players. According to them, this will be the plan throughout the season; rather than splitting duties, both coaches will work together to help get the best out of their players.

Looney believes the time is ripe for a pro women’s hockey league stateside.

“As a former player, back when I played there wasn’t an opportunity,” she said. “I think it’s time now for women’s hockey to be at the forefront here in the United States. The skill and talent level are there. We’ve just got to get it out to the public and show them the great product we have.”

Buffalo is also a prime location for a women’s hockey team. Putting aside any misgivings about the winters here, the people in the 716 area code are passionate about their hometown sports. As Zach jokingly pointed out: “The Sabres sell out all the time, and they’re… not very good.” There are also plenty of female players in the area hoping to either continue playing or get into the game, as evidenced by the number of developmental organizations that cater to both boys’ and girls’ hockey.

Moreover, the Beauts’ home arena, Harborcenter, couldn’t be any better. Sabres owner Terry Pegula financed the state-of-the-art facility, which is right next to First Niagara Center in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Its location is excellent; it’s just off the Metro Rail, the light rail system connecting the suburbs to downtown, as well as being close to multiple major bus lines. In addition, it’s brand-new — the rinks were opened in November 2014 and the Marriott hotel attached to it opened just this August.

Harborcenter provides what Seiling says is the best arena in the league and a huge selling point for any player thinking about coming to play for the Beauts.

“I don’t think anyone from any visiting team will be walking out of here going, ‘Boy, I’m glad we play where we do,’” he said. “They’re going to want to come and play here.”

Once on the ice, the speed of the Beauts was what stood out. Skeats (who turned heads during May’s free agent camp) and Kunichika utilized it perhaps the most, while 5-foot-11 Paige Harrington (the tallest player on the team) used her size and reach to power down the ice, showing off nice hands in the process. Meanwhile, McLaughlin rarely missed a beat in net, making point-blank stops on several skaters during scrimmage play.

#BuffaloBeauts #NWHL

A video posted by Angelica Renee (@reinadelaisla) on

Players and staff alike think the spirit of this inaugural squad will have much in common with the spirit of Buffalo itself — blue-collar.

“There’s a lot of hard-working players that we have collaborating on this team,” Looney said of her new squad. “I think you need a little bit of everything, and that’s what I think we’ve been able to get here. We have a lot of smaller, quicker players, and I think that’ll catch a lot of other teams off guard.”

The Beauts will be able to prove that with their season opener Oct. 11 at home against the Boston Pride. Puck drop is at 3:30 p.m. at the First Niagara Rink in the Harborcenter. Season ticket packages for all four NWHL teams are now available.

 

For more photos and video of the Beaut’s first practice, check out Angelica’s Instagram account.

 

NWHL Season Tickets Go On Sale

The NWHL released their initial season ticket package offerings on Saturday, after much buzz and anticipation. While we’ve heard the single game ticket prices would be $20, we hadn’t previously seen much officially on what the season ticket packages would be.

a tweet describing possible season ticket packages: $250 VIP Season Tickets, $150 General Admission, $75 Student, $50 for a three game pass.
A screencap of the Riveter’s initial tweet about season tickets

There had been a (quickly deleted) tweet from the New York Riveters account that detailed several season ticket packages– a $250 VIP package with reserved, on the glass seating, a $150 general admission package, and a $75 student ticket package, as well as a three game package for $50.

A little over a week later, we have the official announcement, and it looks similar, but not quite the same.

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For most teams, what’s currently on offer is a general admission season ticket package, priced at $150 for 9 home games. This is a savings of $30 over the previously announced single game ticket price of $20. The exception is the Buffalo Beauts, whose GA package is $125. I followed up with the league, and this isn’t a typo– the Beauts package just costs less, for the same amount of games. I wasn’t able to get a comment on why this is so. Additionally, the Riveters have the $150 GA package, but also a $250 VIP package with the aforementioned reserved on the glass seating. According to the league representative I talked to, there will be more pricing options coming for all teams this week, so expect to see VIP packages for everyone else and possibly those student ticket packages coming soon?

Aside from game tickets, whatever the package, season ticket holders also recieve the following perks:

  • 10% off all NWHL merchandise (I haven’t been able to confirm if this is a one time coupon or for the season)
  • 10% off the NWHL Live: Cross Ice Pass, the NWHL’s forthcoming streaming service for their games
  • Priority tickets for the playoffs and the all-star game
  • “Exclusive Season Ticket Holder Events”, no idea what those will be like yet
  • a team photo Autographed by the Entire Team

That’s a pretty decent set of perks. It’s comparable to, in my experience, what an NHL season ticket holder would expect. It’s also in some ways a lot more than the CWHL season ticket holders get. CWHL season ticket packages are also $150 (CAD) for the season currently (goes up to $180 soon), but for 12 games, and the all-star game. While the CWHL package doesn’t include any other perks, like a discount on merchandise or streaming, it does cover more games.

Overall, I like the NWHL season ticket packages. I think they’re at a good price point, and they provide enough incentive to buy over single game tickets that it’s a good value. I like that the NWHL is reserving on the glass tickets for a VIP package– but I’m not thrilled with the way the league has gone about rolling out the ticket info. I’m not sure if it was because the league was working out the kinks with their ticketing system, ThunderTix, or if there was some other hold up, but this does appear to be the same pricing/packages that was originally tweeted out– why was there a delay in getting that info out, even if the packages weren’t on sale yet? Why is there this delay in getting complete package info out? Why are some teams packages priced differently?

Also, why hasn’t there been an official announcement about single game tickets? The $20 price was told to media members at the Boston Pride’s first practice/media day. While it did come from a league representative, the price hasn’t been released anywhere on the NWHL’s website. With the different in Beauts’ season ticket prices, it’s caused me to wonder if the single game ticket prices will be different as well. While I’ve reached out to the league on this point, I haven’t gotten any comment from them yet. Aside from pricing, there also hasn’t been any notice on when single game tickets will go on sale. With several people who I know already planning road trips from the midwest and buying plane tickets to go see home openers in October, this is concerning to me.

So, to wrap things up– NWHL season tickets are on sale! Yay! There may be more packages coming out this week, so possibly wait if you’re a student or want VIP seating. We don’t know what’s up with single game tickets, aside from possibly their price. Streaming will be happening, but we don’t have details yet.

NWHL Pre-Season Games: Mercyhurst, the Whitecaps, the NYFD, and more!

NWHL pre-season games! We love pre-season games! They’re like a movie trailer– it might not be really reflective of what you see when you see the full show, but it’s an interesting sneak peek! We were able to get a copy of the current pre-season schedule for the NWHL, and we are excited!

Kate Cimini recently broke that the NWHL New York Riveters would be playing a pre-season game against the Minnesota Whitecaps. You may remember the Minnesota Whitecaps as the 2010 Clarkson Cup champions, back when the CWHL played the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL) in a championship game for the Clarkson Cup. That team had such familar faces as Gigi Marvin, Jenny Potter, and 2010 Clarkson Cup MVP, Julie Chu. It’s also been a persistent rumor that any midwestern expansion of the CWHL might involve the Whitecaps. The team has been pretty quiet since 2011, mostly playing the occasional exhibition game against the Minnesota Gophers, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of them this season! The current roster is VERY exciting, including several of the 2010 roster like Winny Brodt-Brown, the 2010 captain, and some other players you might recognize like the Lameroux twins, Noora Räty, Alex Rigsby, Anne Schleper, and Mira Jalosuo.

But it’s not just the Riveters who are playing pre-season games! Every NWHL team is playing two pre-season games. We don’t know what the ticket situation will be for these games, but I suspect that the games will be free. We haven’t gotten a comment from the league on ticket prices yet, but perhaps when the full season ticket prices/availability is announced, there will pre-season game information included.

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The Buffalo Beauts will play Mercyhurst twice. The Mercyhurst Lakers finished out top in their conference, the CHA, last year in the NCAA, and 13th overall in the league. Notably, several Mercyhurst alumna play for the Beauts, including goaltender Amanda Makela and forward Shelby Bram.

The Boston Pride will play two teams, the East Coast Wizards U16 Boys and the East Coast Wizards U18 Boys. Boston Pride GM Hayley Moore is also the Director of Girls’/Women’s Hockey with the East Coast Wizards, a program for boys and girls hockey development. Notably, Anya Battaglino, a former Boston Blade and now a practice player for the Connecticut Whale , is a product of the Wizards program. Shenae Lundberg, of the New York Riveters, is also out of the Wizards program, as is Alex Carpenter, 2015 1st overall draft pick by the Riveters.

Speaking of the Riveters, they’ll be playing the Whitecaps once, and also the Fire Department of New York’s hockey team. The Fire Department of New York Hockey Team is a non-profit hockey team made up of members of the New York Fire Department, sensibly enough, and frequently play fund-raiser games for charity, as well as playing in a local men’s league. (Yes, this is the team that got in a line brawl at a teddy bear toss game.)

The Connecticut Whale will also be playing the Whitecaps, and the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. I believe that the Jr. Rangers are this boys hockey assocation, but I’m not sure which team the Whale will be playing. There are several U16 teams, and a U18 team.

 

An earlier version of this article said that the East Coast Wizards U16 team would be the girls team– this is incorrect, it will be the boys team.