NWHL and #ForTheGame Updates
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NWHL and #ForTheGame Updates

The landscape of professional women's hockey in North America has certainly changed significantly since March 31. Catch up on what's new.

NWHL and #ForTheGame Updates by Melissa Burgess

The landscape of professional women's hockey in North America has certainly changed significantly since March 31. It's been nearly five months since the Canadian Women's Hockey League announced that it would be folding, effective in May; just one day after the CWHL officially folded, 200+ players proclaimed the #ForTheGame movement.

Some players who initially proclaimed their support of #ForTheGame have elected to sign with the NWHL after all. Meanwhile, players who are at the forefront of the movement have also been working tirelessly behind the scenes to establish player groups in various cities and tournaments, yet to be announced.

In case you've been a little caught up in the thick of it all, here's what has happened recently in pro women's hockey in North America.

#ForTheGame Updates

In the midst of last week, the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association announced its new leadership, naming Jayna Hefford its Operations Consultant. Hefford is, of course, a former Olympian and Canadian national team player, and a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. Most recently, she served as interim commissioner of the CWHL from July 2018 until the league's folding earlier this year.

The Montreal chapter of the PWHPA announced a golf tournament to be played on September 27 at Golf du Lac Champlain. According to the website, the event "will allow you to directly support the local group of players and to keep a competitive team here in Montreal." Players expected to attend include Marie-Philip Poulin, Hilary Knight, and Mélodie Daoust.

Though not officially announced, the Montreal chapter's website also lists an exhibition game on October 10 against the University of Montreal, with additional games TBA.

In addition, goaltenders Alex Cavallini (neé Rigbsy), Shannon Szabados and Noora Räty are teaming up for a camp for the PWHPA in late September in Plymouth, Michigan. It's just one of many summer camps being held by PWHPA members, but three of the best goalies in the world holding a camp together is certainly notable.

NWHL Signings

As of August 26, there are now 70 players signed with NWHL teams for the upcoming season. Preseason begins in less than a month, with regular season action set to open on October 5.

With the #ForTheGame players electing not to play in the league, there will be a lot of rookies in the NWHL this season – including some players who likely would not have been able to secure a roster spot with the national team players and other #ForTheGame supporters in play. As of writing, more than half of those signed are joining the league for the first time, including nearly every player on the Beauts and the Riveters.

The Victory Press is currently working to confirm the roster limit for NWHL teams. Historically, teams have been limited to a maximum of 25 players.

Here's a look at each team's roster:

BOSTON: Fratkin, Sullivan, Putigna, Rheault, Bender, Laing, Souliotis, Parker, Dempsey, Brand, Kelly, Wohlfeiler, Raspa, Hanson, Mastel, Renn, Selander

BUFFALO: Buie, Fujimagari, Stacey, Brown, Delay, Bowering, Pelletier, MacPherson, Ruggiero, Neumann, Birdsall, Klimášová, Čurmová, Norton, Sheriff

CONNECTICUT: Doyle, Marchin, Broad, Orlando, Brickner, Morisette, Klienbach, Vlasic, Meneghin, Hughson, Goyette, Anderson

METROPOLITAN: Packer, Hutchison, Murphy, Morse, Cornine, Shatalova, Arnold, Kartanbay, Rushton, Avery, Baker, Slattery

MINNESOTA: Thunstrom, Leveille, Curtis, Schammel, Boulier, White-Lancette, Martinson, Schmid, Morse, Lorence, Richards, Anderson, Brodt Rosenthal, Brodt Brown

The Beauts are Back

The NWHL and Pegula Sports and Entertainment have reached a settlement regarding the use of the Buffalo Beauts' trademark.

With this, the Beauts' social media accounts have been reactivated.

In regards to what to expect on the ice for the Beauts this season, The Victory Press spoke with GM Mandy Cronin on August 26 regarding her team, which currently has 15 players signed.

"We've left 1 or 2 spots open in each position," Cronin said. "We'll keep those open until we find the right fit." Cronin said the team is in conversation with multiple players and will look to secure 20-22 signed players to begin the NWHL season. She added that she would like to keep several spots open and remain flexible for players to join the team after the season begins.

"We'll use the beginning of September and practices to explore those further," she added. "We've got some very good players we're in conversation with right now."

In addition to her duties as the team's GM, Cronin will serve as the Beauts' goaltending coach. She is also in conversation to add one to two more coaches to Pete Perram's staff. Cronin and Perram will look to build upon their chemistry (having worked together in the past) to create a cohesive team, despite the number of newcomers.

Cronin also spoke highly of goaltender Kelsey Neumann, who has signed with Buffalo as one of two netminders thus far. Neumann doesn't have much NWHL playing experience, but to Cronin, that's not the priority.

"Her passion, dedication, and her commitment to the Beauts, not just to playing, but to the team," were several key factors in Cronin's decision to sign Neumann. "I know she's a workhorse. She is very much an attention to detail person," Cronin said, noting that Neumann drove up to Toronto for a skate with Cronin as soon as the GM's position was announced.

"She hasn't had a lot of opportunity to show what she's got," Cronin added.

When it comes to Neumann, or to discussing which players could potentially be on the Beauts' top line, Cronin said that there's no specific rhyme or reason to those decisions at this point. Players who start the season on the top line may not be there all year, and a goaltender who starts the first game may find herself on the bench. In the end, those decisions will come down to Perram's choices, and in seeing who fits together.

"Every practice is a tryout for the next game," she said.

The NWHL has their full 2019-20 schedule on their website.

The PWHPA's website has a full slate of their announced events so far.