Weekly News: NWHL captains, Four Nations outcome, Desjardins comeback

  • The NWHL has announced all their captains for the year!
    • For the Boston Pride, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker as co-captains
    • For the Buffalo Beauts, Emily Pfazler will be the captain, while Meghan Duggan and Shelby Bram will serve as assistant captains.
    • For the Connecticut Whale, Jessica Koizumi has the C, and Kaleigh Fratkin the A.
    • The New York Riveters have Ashley Johnston, Madison Packer, and Morgan Fritz-Ward, but it’s not entirely clear yet how the captain/assistant captain assignments will work out.
  • The US won the Four Nations Cup, beating Canada in a tight 3-2 win. Check out the tournament results and what they might mean going forward over at Victory Press, and check out Along the Board’s careful looks at who were the best CWHL and NWHL players at the Four Nations tournament.
  • Kathy Desjardins, last seen in net for Team Alberta in the 2013/2014 season, is back for the Calgary Inferno! She took some time off to recover from some injuries, including a concussion and a broken collarbone, but is ready to take the ice again alongside the Inferno’s new acquisitions like Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • Rachel Koteen of 540 Films is trying to kickstart a documentry about the NWHL. As someone who remembers the documentary that Jessica Desjardins did about the CWHL’s Montreal Stars fondly, and as someone who loves insight into the little things that make a league or a team tick, I’m very excited about this! While the NWHL is not sponsoring the documentary, Koteen will be working with the league and the teams to get that kind of inside access to players and teams. $11 will get you a digital copy of the documentary when it comes out, and like all Kickstarter projects, if they don’t fund their goal, you don’t lose your money. So go check it out!
  • The Calgary Inferno will be playing Team Japan today November 11th, at 4:45 PM EST. Sadly, there will be no streams of any sort for this. 🙁
  • The regular season for both the NWHL and CWHL resume this weekend!

Weekly News: Four Nations Cup kicks off, NWHL, CWHL

Four Nations Cup!

So, the Four Nations Cup starts today, with Canada facing down Finland at 10 AM EST, and then US facing host Sweden at 1:30 PM EST. I had a grand plan of previewing the teams and streaming, etc, but I’ve been super duper busy with my job (gotta love launch deadlines, right?) and as it turns out, Victory Press has done a really pretty damn through job of it already.

  • Angelica Rodriguez previewed Team Canada
  • Melissa Kania previewed Team Sweden, the host of the tournament
  • Nicole Haase previewed Team USA
  • There’s not a preview for Team Finland, the fourth team, up yet, sadly
  • STREAMING! The exciting thing is that all games are being streamed, not just Canada and the US. You’ll need to purchase a monthly pass (which is reoccurring, so cancel the reoccurring right away if you think you’ll forget) for ~10 USD/~12 CAD. Victory Press does have a streaming breakdown, for more details.

NWHL

  • Greg Wyshynski interviewed Dani Rylan about her plans for the NWHL, which you can listen to on the November 1st episode of the Marek vs. Wyshnski podcast. If you want to jump straight to the interview, it starts around the 50 minute mark. There’s some interesting info, like the fact that Rylan intends to step down as the Riveters GM next year and retain the Commissioner’s hat. I also liked the hinting around TV deals, although PLEASE PLEASE KEEP US OUTSIDE THE LOCAL AREA IN MIND.
  • The NWHL is on break for the Four Nations Cup, and will resume play on November 15th.

CWHL

  • The CWHL is also on break, and will resume play on November 14th.
  • This is technically CWHL and NWHL news, but Clare Austin at In Goal Magazine has started doing a goalie roundup for the two leagues. Check it out!
  • According to Habs Eyes on the Prize, the CWHL intends to pay players starting in the 2017-2018 season. While this is great news, it’s also a promise we’ve heard before. I’m hopeful, but not really holding my breath, especially as the league remains incorporated as a non-profit.

How Do International Tourneys Affect the CWHL?

The CWHL resumed regular play last weekend after spending the first half of November on hiatus, as 22 of its best players travelled to Kamloops, B.C. for the 4 Nations Cup — but don’t be fooled. The league was far from idle as it spent the tournament spreading the word about professional women’s hockey, both to its existing fans state-side and potential fans worldwide.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase our players,” said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress of the tournament. “Any player [in the 4 Nations Cup] who isn’t playing in the CIS or NCAA is in our league. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to expose the game across the world.”

Some of the names on the rosters and scoresheets, like Boston’s Hilary Knight (USA; three goals in the tournament) and Calgary’s Rebecca Johnston (Canada; four points), were familiar from February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. Others, like Brampton rookie Jamie Lee Rattray (Canada; three points), might be more familiar to those who watched her play in college. Regardless, the presence of these players help build a brand and strengthen what Andress refers to as a “grassroots” movement to make pro women’s hockey a successful venture for young girls growing up with the game.

Part of that effort includes working with hockey’s national bodies in North America — USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to find out when camps and events are being held, in order to ensure the league’s players can participate. Another part of it is using the powers of social media, posting news and information about the tournament on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach the broadest audience possible. Lastly, the games were broadcast on TSN in Canada, giving the tournament and its players nationwide exposure and perhaps spurring new viewers to research the CWHL.

The combined approach has worked; through the first two weeks of November, the @cwhl_insider account saw a 5 percent growth in followers, and marketing and communications specialist Jennifer Smith said via email that the league expects that growth to eclipse 10 percent by the end of the month. That’s partly thanks to the announcement just after the 4 Nations Cup of the CWHL All-Star Game, to be held in Toronto on Dec. 13. Boston Blades GM Aronda Kirby also said she noticed the @BostonCWHL handle gain a couple of hundred followers during the tournament.

“The media is covering it more, there’s more attention being paid to women’s hockey,” she said. “They write more articles about it, and we post them to our websites. It feeds the marketing machine.”

All of this contributes to turning the CWHL into a viable league for young women and girls to aspire to play in, and eventually work (much like in the NHL) toward international tournaments, something Andress is excited about.

“We want our players to grow up through this grassroots movement,” she said. “We want them to say, ‘Hey, I want to become a professional women’s hockey player, and in doing so I will get the chance to represent my country.’”

Of course, with the positive exposure comes a set of challenges. These tournaments feature compressed schedules — the 4 Nations Cup in particular has teams playing four games in four days — and with that comes a risk of injury and fatigue. There is also the prospect of taking time away from work — it’s a known fact that CWHL players aren’t paid for their play, and thus have full-time jobs in order to eat and pay the bills. The fact that they sacrifice some things to participate, Andress said, is a testament to how much they are willing to do just to play the game.

On a team level, Kirby mentioned the timing of the tournament, just a couple of weeks after the start of the season, which doesn’t allow for a lot of time to build up steam. It hasn’t seemed to slow down the Blades much — they are currently in the midst of six straight weekends playing without a break, and started off with a convincing sweep of Toronto. However, the constant play could contribute to some fatigue later on.

Another disadvantage that comes with being in the States and trying to follow your players from Boston? Limited access to broadcasts. While FASTHockey provided free live streams of some of the games on Hockey Canada’s 4 Nations Cup page, others (mainly the games Canada was playing in) were unavailable for viewing in the U.S. without resorting to illegal streaming or a paid website — and not everyone has the money for those.

“The only option seemed to be to buy a live stream of the game,” Kirby said. “We were texting everyone, asking, ‘Where’d you get the game?’ It was a little inconvenient.”

With that said, the tournament did generate some good conversation about women’s hockey. So does that mean more of them could be a boost for the female game?

Yes and no. Andress mentioned that there are two different goals inherent in tournaments versus leagues like the CWHL or NHL. While a broader fanbase is created in international tournaments, which pit country against country, the fact that these leagues feature players from all over the world creates more of an individual following.

“If you’re watching a Team USA game, you’re more likely to root for a player from your favorite team,” she said. “If you’re, say, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you’re going to be a Maple Leafs fan regardless of what player is wearing that jersey — Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, whoever.”

There’s also the idea of parity, something the CWHL can boast for the most part. There are plenty of talented players in the league who didn’t make the 4 Nations rosters, but could at any given time.

From a revenue standpoint, Kirby thinks tournaments featuring CWHL players stateside could have benefits, with some conditions.

“If the revenue could go somehow to the players or the clubs, that would be beneficial,” she said.

Overall, events like the 4 Nations Cup do their part to increase exposure of women’s hockey and the seven-year-old league that aims to become the premier place for female players to take their talents. Andress stressed the idea of retaining the fans that come to see these tournaments.

“It’s like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to wait once a year, or once every four years, for these games,’” she said. “They happen in your backyard every weekend.”

Mid-Week Link Roundup: 4 Nations outcomes, Japan qualifies for Women’s World Championship, and an ALL-STAR GAME!!

Mid-Week Link Round-up: 4 Nations outcomes, Japan qualifies for Women’s World Championship, and an ALL-STAR GAME!!

  • Japan beat the Czech Republic in the qualifiers series for a spot in the Women’s World Championship in Malmo! Japan will be in Group B, along with Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, while Group A will have the US, Canada, Russia, and Finland. Aina Takeuchi of the Calgary Inferno had 1 assist, 2 PIM, and was a +2 after three games in the qualifiers for Team Japan.
  • Well, the Four Nations Cup is over, and Canada walked home with the gold (again). The US took silver, and the Finns took bronze. The Canadian Jennifer Wakefield tied with the Americans Shiann Darkangelo and Dani Cameranesi for points leader, with Wakefield, Rebecca Johnston, and Hilary Knight tying for goals leader. While I didn’t manage to catch all of the games, I’m excited (as a hockey fan) and more than a little concerned (as an American hockey fan) to see Canada starting to play to the strengths of their young players, in a roster bursting with young talent. The US continues to be unable to finish a game strong, and I was incredibly impressed with Sweden’s goaltenders, in Sara Grahn and Kim Marti’n Hasson, who saved 76 of the 80 shots and 67 of 70 shots, respectively, that they faced this tournament. If Sweden could have capitalized at all on their offensive chances, I really feel like they could have been a much more credible threat in this tournament.
  • As we’ve suspected for a while, there will be a CWHL All-Star game come December 13th at the Air Canada Centre! Admission will be free, and there will be a period of skills competitions, followed by two full periods of hockey. 40 players from the CWHL will go, and have already been selected, however fans will be able to vote online for the Captains of each team from November 29th to December 10th. Captains will draft their top five players in a private draft on December 12th, and the rest will be assigned out of a hat. Look for more info on that as we know it!

No Weekend Review Today!

Just a quick heads up, there won’t be a weekend review today– there wasn’t a lot that happened this weekend! Expect a game recap tomorrow of the first Four Nations Cup game, US vs Finland!

The US and Finland face off at 4:00 PM EDT– follow along with a live-stream and other updates on Hockey Canada’s website.

Canada and Sweden will face off at 10:00 PM EDT– this game will not be streamed, but will be on TSN. Follow along on Hockey Canada’s website here.

Weekend Preview: Four Nations Cup!

Weekend Preview: Oct. 31st, 2014

As you might have noticed if you’ve checked your calendar lately, there are no CWHL games this weekend. This is not a mistake! The Four Nations cup is coming up, and players have already left their teams for national camps.

So, we thought we’d do a quick and dirty primer on the Four Nations Cup Tournament, instead of previewing the CWHL games.

Continue reading Weekend Preview: Four Nations Cup!