|Current season, competition or edition:
2017-18 NWHL season
|No. of teams||4|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Buffalo Beauts (1st title)|
|Most titles||Boston Pride and
Buffalo Beauts (1 each)
The National Women's Hockey League is an American women's professional ice hockey league. Established in 2015, the league comprises four teams: the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale, and Metropolitan Riveters. The league's championship trophy is the Isobel Cup, named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, donor of the Stanley Cup.
The formation of the NWHL was announced in March 2015. The league is the first U.S women's hockey league to pay its players. Prior to the league's formation, the only choice for top level women's hockey in North America was the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), which paid bonuses but not salaries. The league's first season ran on a salary cap of US$270,000 maximum per team and a $10,000 minimum per player. The players can also make additional revenue by way of a right to 15% of profits off any NWHL jersey sold with their name on it. The league placed its four original teams in what it considered to be the strongest traditional hockey markets: in the New York City area, Buffalo, and New England.
Commissioner Dani Rylan has never identified the league's investors, stating they preferred to remain anonymous. Canadian Joel Leonoff, CEO of Paysafe Group and father of Connecticut Whale goaltender Jaimie Leonoff, has spoken about his investment in the league, although he declined to reveal the size of his investment.
The inaugural NWHL Entry Draft took place in Boston on June 20. The league held tryout camps in various locales in Canada, along with an international player camp in Boston. In addition, due to the paid nature of the league and its placement in the Northeastern United States, the league attracted many top level United States women's national ice hockey team stars from the CWHL such as Hilary Knight and former Team USA captain Meghan Duggan, top graduating players from the NCAA, and international players. The league is recognized by USA Hockey as the top women's professional league.
On December 31, 2015, the Boston Pride played Montreal's Les Canadiennes of the CWHL to a 1-1 tie in the first Women's Winter Classic (officially the "Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank") the day before the 2016 NHL Winter Classic and at the same site, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was the first outdoor professional women's hockey game and the first game between the NWHL and the CWHL.
The 1st NWHL All-Star Game took place on January 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. The game featured a 4-on-4 format with Hilary Knight of the Boston Pride and Emily Pfalzer of the Buffalo Beauts serving as team captains. On Saturday March 12, 2016. The Boston Pride became the first ever Isobel Cup champions with a 3-1 win vs the Buffalo Beauts and a 2-0 series win.
Heading into the second season, the league undertook a new direction. On August 4, 2016, the league announced that all four inaugural season jersey designs would be retired. All four teams entered the upcoming season with new jersey designs that were voted upon by fans online.
Two days prior to this announcement, the league announced a partnership with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to eradicating homophobia in sport. Not only did each team in the league have a You Can Play athlete-ambassador, it would eventually begin to develop a policy with regards to transgender players. This initiative took place in reaction to October 7, 2016, announcement that Buffalo Beauts player Harrison Browne was transgender, which made him the first openly transgender athlete in professional American team sports.
Part way into the league's second season, the NWHL informed its players on November 17, 2016, that they would all be getting up to a 50% pay cut. This dropped the league player minimums to $5,000 per player. Five weeks later, in an attempt to partially compensate for the salary rollback, the league introduced an incentive program where players from the home team split the revenue generated by tickets sold in excess of 500 after each game. On February 3, 2017, the league announced that the season and playoffs would be shortened to accommodate for the players' participation in the 2017 IIHF World Championships and preparations for the 2018 Olympic teams.
Before the 2017-18 season, the Riveters announced they had partnered with the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League (NHL), becoming the first NWHL team to officially partner with an NHL team. Upon the announcement, the Riveters changed their name to the Metropolitan Riveters to reflect the broader geographic region. The Riveters also adopted the colors of the Devils and changed their jerseys. As part of the new affiliation, the Riveters and Devils held a doubleheader at the Prudential Center for the Riveters' 2017-18 season opener against the Boston Pride followed by the Devils' game against the Arizona Coyotes.
On December 21, 2017 it was announced that the Buffalo Beauts had been acquired by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Buffalo Sabres, Rochester Americans and the Beauts arena HarborCenter. The purchase made the Beauts the first NWHL team to not be league-owned and the first women's hockey team in North America to be owned by the same organization as that city's NHL team.
The league consists of four teams concentrated in the Northeast United States.
|Team||City||Primary Arena||Head Coach||Isobel Cups||Runners-up|
|Boston Pride||Boston, Massachusetts||Warrior Ice Arena||Thomas Pöck||1||1|
|Buffalo Beauts||Buffalo, New York||HarborCenter||Ric Seiling||1||1|
|Connecticut Whale||Stamford, Connecticut||Terry Conners Ice Rink||Ryan Equale||0||0|
|Metropolitan Riveters||Newark, New Jersey||Barnabas Health Hockey Center||Chad Wiseman||0||0|
The inaugural NWHL Entry Draft took place in Boston on June 20. The draft order was decided on June 8 by lottery: the New York Riveters to pick first, followed by the Connecticut Whale, the Boston Pride, and the Buffalo Beauts. The first overall pick by the Riveters was Boston College graduate Alex Carpenter, the 2015 winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award for the most outstanding player in NCAA women's hockey, and the daughter of National Hockey League All-Star Bobby Carpenter. The other first round picks were University of Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt by Connecticut, Northeastern University forward Kendall Coyne by Boston, and University of Wisconsin defenseman Courtney Burke by Buffalo.
The first game in league history, between the New York Riveters and Connecticut Whale on October 11, 2015, sold out.Manon Rheaume dropped the puck in the ceremonial opening faceoff before that game. The first goal in league history, in a 4-1 win by the host Whale, was scored by Jessica Koizumi of Connecticut.
The same four teams that contested the inaugural season returned for the second season. Prior to the first game of the season, Harrison Browne of the Buffalo Beauts made the declaration that he was a transgender athlete. The 2nd NWHL All-Star Game was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first NWHL game to be played outside of its four markets. Amanda Kessel and Kelley Steadman were named as All-Star captains. Kessel would go on to score the first hat trick in NWHL All-Star history. Brianna Decker would finish the season as the scoring champion. The Buffalo Beauts, who finished in third place in the shortened season, upset the league-leading Boston Pride in the Isobel Cup, which was played as a single-elimination tournament.
The same four teams that contested the previous two seasons returned for the third season, all in the same arenas (Buffalo played home opener at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in the suburbs of Rochester and there is also one neutral-site game in Pittsburgh on the schedule).
|Year||Winning Team||Coach||Losing Team||Coach||Series||City|
|2016||Boston Pride||Bobby Jay||Buffalo Beauts||Ric Seiling||2-0 (series)||Newark, NJ|
|2017||Buffalo Beauts||Ric Seiling||Boston Pride||Bobby Jay||3-2 (single game)||Lowell, MA|
The NWHL does not currently have a national television partner. During the inaugural season, some games were shown on ESPN3, a sister streaming service to cable channel ESPN.
In 2016, third-party broadcasts moved from ESPN3 to the new Cheddar, an internet television channel available via Sling TV.
On June 20, 2017 it was announced that the NWHL had made a deal with Twitter to live stream 16 regular season games, one game a week (billed as the "Twitter NWHL Game of the Week") plus the All Star Game and the NWHL/Team Russia Summit Series for the 2017-18 season.
The league's flagship franchise, the Boston Pride, became the first women's hockey team to enter a regular broadcasting agreement with a regional sports network, with 8 of its 18 games presented on either NESN or NESNplus during the league's inaugural season.