(Photo: Melissa Burgess)
Back in March, the first season of the National Women’s Hockey League ended with the Boston Pride capturing the Isobel Cup with a victory over the Buffalo Beauts in Newark, New Jersey.
Nearly seven months later, those two teams will open the league’s second season as part of the NWHL’s season-opening weekend October 7-9 in Buffalo, New York. The opening weekend features a trio of games, with each of the league’s four teams playing at least once.
"We’re kicking off our second season with a weekend-long event to celebrate our players, fans, and the future stars of this sport.” – Dani Rylan
All three games will be played at HARBORCENTER in Buffalo, New York.
The season kicks off on Friday, October 7 as the Beauts and Pride meet for the first time. The following night, the Pride will hit the ice again, this time to face the New York Riveters on Saturday, October 8. (Boston will act as the home team.)
The weekend wraps up with a game between the Beauts and the Connecticut Whale on Sunday, October 9, with Buffalo once again as the home team. Puck drop for all three games is set for 7:30 PM.
Though it’s unclear at this point how long the NWHL season will be (length-wise or number of games), opening weekend will eat up two of Buffalo’s home games in a matter of three days.
Fans can purchase single-game tickets for any of the opening weekend games at $20 each here. A weekend package, which includes a general-admission ticket to each of the three games, is also available for purchase online at the cost of $45 - a $15 savings.
In addition to the three professional games, the NWHL’s opening weekend will also include the NWHL Futures Tournament, which will feature sixteen teams representing the Founding Four markets. Teams will range from U-8 to U-14. The tournament will also be held at HARBORCENTER and will be open to the public.
The league will also celebrate IIHF Girls’ Hockey Weekend, which runs October 8-9.
The full NWHL schedule for the 2016-17 season is expected to be announced later this summer.
As the season grows closer, NWHL teams continue to fill out their rosters. The league was initially scheduled to have one more free agent camp later this month in Massachusetts, but decided to forgo the camp as team GMs decided they didn’t need another look at the players.
As of July 7, the Pride have the most work to do, with just six of 17 player spots filled. Jordan Smelker, Jillian Dempsey, Blake Bolden, and Brittany Ott are among the players returning to the Isobel Cup Championship team, with other key players like Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, and Kacey Bellamy still unsigned. They've still got $185,000 in cap space to work with. The US National Team players may make their decision en masse at the end of the FA period, similar to how it played out last year.
The Whale have eight players signed for next season so far, including returning forwards Kelly Babstock, Jessica Koizumi, and Sam Faber, who was signed back in April. With that, Connecticut has $152,500 remaining in cap space.
Buffalo now has 10 spots filled for next season, including a big piece in Kelley Steadman, as well as other returning forwards Devon Skeats and Kourtney Kunichika. The Beauts also recently signed defender Sarah Casorso out of UBC for $13,500, and still have $140,500 in cap space.
Finally, the Riveters are are nearly a complete team, with 15 of 17 spots filled. Their roster for the upcoming season includes newcomer Amanda Kessel as well as returners Kiira Dosdall and Morgan Fritz-Ward. The Riveters also signed both Kaleigh Fratkin and Jaimie Leonoff, who spent last season in Connecticut. With $9,000 in draft taxes paid out to other teams, New York has $35,500 remaining to work with.
In addition, teams also need to fill out their practice player spots, though this is likely slightly less of a priority and will come as we get closer to the end of free agency. Teams are allowed to carry 17 players (15 skaters and two goaltenders) as well as six practice players, one of whom will be a goaltender.
Free agency runs until July 31.
In addition to opening weekend, season tickets for the Beauts and Whale are also now available here. The Beauts will once again make their home at HARBORCENTER, while the Whale move from Chelsea Piers CT to Northford Ice Pavilion in Northford, Connecticut.
Home rinks for the Pride and Riveters have not been confirmed yet, and as such, season tickets for those teams are not available yet. Last season Boston played at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center at Harvard University, while the Riveters played out of Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Stay tuned for further information and the full NWHL schedule when it's released by the league later this summer.