The National Women’s Hockey League announced on Tuesday that they have expanded to the State of Hockey as they have acquired a fifth franchise, the Minnesota Whitecaps for the 2018-2019 season.
This is the first round of expansion for the young league, which began play in the Fall of 2015. The Whitecaps will join the NWHL’s Founding Four clubs, Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale in their efforts to provide strong female role models within their communities as they continue to grow the sport of women’s hockey.
Minnesota Whitecaps Fifth Team in NWHL
The announcement of the Whitecaps joining the league was made in St. Paul, Minnesota almost three months after the league showcased their brand during the 2018 NWHL All-Star Game at TRIA Rink, the newly opened practice facility of the National hockey League’s, Minnesota Wild.
NWHL Commissioner, Dani Rylan said, “We are ecstatic to welcome Minnesota to the NWHL. Minnesota is an essential part of women’s hockey in North America. When you consider all the talented players in this area and the passion this community has for the game, the Whitecaps are going to be incredible on and off the ice.”
She continued, “The women’s hockey players of Minnesota are among the best in the world in what they do and now they will have an opportunity to play professionally. After all, the young girls of this state should be able to dream as big as their brothers. Having Minnesota in the NWHL expands our national footprint and grows our game in so many ways. This is a monumental step for the NWHL.”
Marvin: “It is an exciting day for women’s hockey with Minnesota joining the NWHL!”
USA gold medalist and Boston Pride forward, Gigi Marvin, a Warroad, Minnesota native added, “It is an exciting day for women’s hockey with Minnesota joining the NWHL! The state of Minnesota produces many outstanding players, so it is awesome that those players can now compete professionally.”
Governor Dayton: “…Let’s play hockey!”
The Governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, who was also in attendance at the press conference on Tuesday morning said, “I am thrilled to welcome the National Women’s Hockey League to the State of Hockey. I am very proud of our Minnesota Whitecaps and exceptionally talented Minnesotans who play for them. I look forward to cheering, as they win the Isobel Cup next year! Let’s play hockey!”
As with the “Founding Four” teams, the Whitecaps will be originally owned by the league. This past season though the Riveters reached a strategic partnership with the NHL’s, New Jersey Devils and the Beauts were acquired by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and National Football League’s, Buffalo Bills.
The Whitecaps were founded in 2004. The club has been an independent club for the last eight years after the Western Women’s Hockey League dissolved following the 2010-2011 season. While skating as an independent club, the franchise has played exhibition games with the NWHL as well as area college teams throughout the area.
Many USA Hockey Legends have skated for the Minnesota Whitecaps
The Whitecaps alumni have included many USA Hockey legends, as Angela Ruggerio, Julie Chu, Natalie Darwitz, Hannah Brandt, Kendall Coyne, Jocelyn Lamoureaux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureaux-Morando, Alex Rigby and Lisa Chesson. Chesson, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, is currently a member of the Beauts.
Brandt said, “The Whitecaps have done an excellent job of growing the game in the state of Minnesota and it is exciting to see how far this program has come. It is an organization full of people that are extremely passionate about women’s hockey and positive role models that young players in the state can look up to.”
Whitecaps captain, Winnie Brodt Brown also in attendance for the announcement said, “On behalf of my teammates and everyone in the Whitecaps organization, I want to say this is an incredible moment for women’s hockey in Minnesota and we are truly excited to become a member club in the NWHL. We are determined to have a women’s professional team that hockey fans in Minnesota can be proud of. I am looking forward to hitting the ice with my teammates and being able to play for the Isobel Cup.”
Deputy Commissioner and Director of Player Development, Hayley Moore added, “The NWHL takes immense pride in providing the platform and opportunity for high-level players to continue their careers and become even stronger players after college. Expanding to Minnesota, with its rich hockey culture and abundance of elite players, is a thrilling opportunity for the NWHL, its players, and everyone involved to show what we are capable of. It is a responsibility we take very seriously, and we can’t wait to get started in Minnesota.”
While the league has been a bus league through the first three seasons, the Whitecaps will travel to Newark, New Jersey, Stamford, Connecticut, Boston, Massachusetts and Buffalo, New York by air travel as the Riveters, Beauts, Whale and Pride will also fly to the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The league hopes, as in Newark and Buffalo they can one day reach a partnership with the Wild and the Whitecaps, but as of now there is nothing on the table. The Wild, as well as Vikings Women, the community service arm of the NFL’s, Minnesota Vikings did provide some sponsorship to the league during 2018 NWHL All-Star Weekend last February.
The schedule for the fourth season, will be released later this summer as the free agency period for teams to sign players will begin on June 1.
The transcript of Tuesday’s announcement is listed below:
“Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you to the media for your coverage and thanks also to our guests for joining us in Saint Paul. This is a landmark moment for the NWHL and for women’s professional hockey in Minnesota and across North America.
My colleagues all around the league, our players, executives, supporters…forgive us if we can’t stop smiling. That’s how much this moment – and being in Minnesota – means to us.
Make no mistake: when our league was formed in 2015, if it was at all possible, we would have loved to start with a team in Minnesota.
But developing a league takes time, resources, support and patience. We always believed this day would come.
Just three months ago, in partnership with our friends at the Minnesota Wild, we had a very successful NWHL All-Star Weekend. Usually when we have a neutral-site event, it’s to “test” the market. But let’s be serious – there was nothing to test! This is the State of Hockey!
I’ll give you a personal example. Couple years ago, on a February day, I was here in Saint Paul with friends down at Tom Reid’s. Every single TV in the place had girls’ high school hockey on.
Only in Minnesota! You’d better believe that was an inspiration to me.
This past winter, as we were talking with the Whitecaps, visiting the area, and planning our All-Star Weekend, one number caught our eyes: 28.
That was the number of women’s hockey players graduating from the five Division I college programs in your state this year. 28! As if the Whitecaps aren’t deep enough in talent as it is, 28…that’s more than an entire roster of skilled players available year after year.
Whether it’s the recent grads, the Olympians like Lee Stecklein, Dani Cameranesi and Hannah Brandt, or an incredible role model like Winny Brodt Brown who continues to make her mark on the game, these players are primed for the pros and ready to play with and against the best.
These women are the best at what they do, and they have earned the right to be professional hockey players.
And that’s why we’re here today. The Minnesota Whitecaps have built a legacy of creating opportunities for Minnesota, and we look forward to building on that tradition.
I have no doubt that this sports market – so passionate about the Lynx, Wild, Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and the college and high school teams – has room in its heart for the Whitecaps of the NWHL.
The Vegas Golden Knights may have stunned the hockey world in their first season, but I believe most women’s hockey experts will tell you Minnesota’s NWHL team is not only going to be a success out of the gate, but also a perennial Isobel Cup champion.
A few brief words of thanks:
To Governor Dayton, for your belief in our league and in our mission, and for joining us today.
To the Minnesota Wild, for collaborating with us on All-Star Weekend and your counsel and friendship over the last few years. We look forward to working with you some more.
Thank you to Jack Brodt and Winny, and Kirsten Burton and Laura Halldorson, for your commitment and fortitude to women’s hockey and creating this partnership.
To Whitecaps players past, present and future: we pledge that your faith in the NWHL will be rewarded. Together, we will grow this great game.
And thank you to the hockey fans of Minnesota, because the success of any team relies on the support of its community.
And now, without further ado, it’s time to make this official…
Ladies and gentlemen … it gives us great pleasure to announce that Minnesota has joined the National Women’s Hockey League! Welcome the Minnesota Whitecaps!”