(Photo: Melissa Burgess)
In the inaugural NWHL season, Shelley Looney and Ric Seiling served as co-head coaches of the Buffalo Beauts, while Linda Mroz served as the team's general manager.
But on March 30, in a matter of minutes, everything changed.
First came a press release from the league that announced Seiling as the Beauts' GM, per commissioner Dani Rylan.
"Ric Seiling brings a wealth of professional hockey experience to the National Women's Hockey League," Rylan said.
Rylan went on to say that Seiling would not only be the general manager for the 2016-17, season but would also be back in his coaching position.
This press release left us with a lot of questions. Most notably, what happened to Linda Mroz, who had served as general manager of the Beauts this past season? Per a league response to that question, the NWHL said that Mroz will remain a part of the Beauts’ management team.
Her new title? “Game day operations manager,” working directly with Seiling.
At this point, it's unclear exactly what that position involves, but since it often seemed like Mroz was doing everything under the sun at Beauts home games last season, it's safe to say that she'll be busy again.
Last season, though her official title was GM, Mroz seemed to have done it all. From preparing game-day scripts for Beauts PA announcer Ryan Burgess to coordinating ceremonial face-offs; from skating with the team at practices to doing post-game media interviews -- and all this, not to mention the traditional GM duties of helping select and sign players in the offseason and the like.
The change in position will allow Mroz to perhaps take a few things off her plate, and will generally help to make Beauts gamedays run smoother. It's a change in the organization's structure, but it does keep Mroz in a management position.
With that news under our belts, another bombshell was dropped.
Eric Wollschlager of Today's Slapshot posted an exclusive interview with Seiling after the announcement. With that interview came the news that Looney would not be returning as co-head coach of the Beauts.
"Her responsibilities with the Buffalo Bisons youth hockey organization have taken priority and she’ll be focusing on that going forward. We will be working to find a replacement as soon as possible," Seiling said in the Today's Slapshot piece.
This is no doubt a huge piece of news for the Beauts, who, despite the odds, went all the way to the Isobel Cup finals this past season.
Based on Seiling's quote, it's unclear if the Beauts will be seeking another person to be co-head coach alongside Seiling, or an assistant coach to work below him.
Either way, that's something we should find out later in the offseason, but it seems like the focus for right now is on re-signing players. Every NWHL player was on a one-year contract; therefore, everyone is technically up for grabs.
The NWHL's free agency period begins on May 1 and goes until July 31. The 2016 Junior Draft will be held on June 18.
The Beauts aren't the only team that's seen some shifting in the front office this offseason, though Wednesday's moves are undoubtedly the biggest as of late.
The Connecticut Whale also recently introduced their new general manager, Lisa Giovanelli. Giovanelli served as an assistant coach last season for the Whale; she'll return in that capacity while also taking on the title of GM.
Giovanelli was previously the assistant coach of the Quinnipiac Bobcats and has won five gold medals with the U.S. Women's Inline Hockey Team.
"To build our team this year, I'm looking for players who have great character and will help us create good team chemistry on and off the ice,” said Giovanelli.
Giovanelli will be the Whale's fourth general manager. She replaces George Speirs, who was acting as GM as well as COO of the NWHL, until mid-February.
With that, we move onto talk about the NY Riveters, who were looking for a GM to replace Rylan in her position as the general manager of the New York team.
Now, that spot has been filled by none other than Chad Wiseman, per a league press release on Thursday.
Wiseman served as head coach of the Riveters this past season; he'll retain that role while also picking up the GM role for the 2016-17 season.
The Boston Pride will see Hayley Moore return as their general manager for the upcoming season, per a league press release sent out Thursday.
“The future of women's hockey is brighter than ever, and I am honored to be a part of creating that future,” Moore said.
After all of this, we're still left with a few questions. Who will the Beauts pick up as another coach? And, of course -- how will free agency change the way the teams look when they hit the ice this October?