The National Women’s Hockey League is in flux, constantly growing and evolving both on and off the ice.
Here are five updates on the biggest news in the NWHL this past week.
1. Off-Ice: Toronto Six face backlash for transphobia, resulting in Lindsay “GamerDoc” Migliore stepping away from Open Ice
Lindsay “Gamerdoc” Migliore, an ESports personality who hosted the talk show Open Ice with players and league officials has stepped away from her role with the NWHL. Migliore was asked to present the NWHL awards but turned down the opportunity, stating that while she plans to continue to engage with women’s hockey as a whole, she needed to take a stand against transphobia. Last week, journalist D.F Pendrys broke the news that Toronto Six head coach and team president Digit Murphy was listed as a supporter of Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, an organization which stands against allowing trans women compete in women’s sports. An allegation followed from former CWHL player and first trans women in professional women’s hockey, Jessica Platt, that she had reached out to the Six for a roster spot but never heard back. Platt stated that while she couldn’t know for sure, she had to wonder if transphobia played a part, which is something for fans to consider as Toronto went into the season with only five defenders.
Here’s a taste of what the “Women’s Sports Policy Working Group,” whose supporters include Toronto Six HC Digit Murphy, has to say about transgender girls & women competing in sports.— Melissa Burgess (@_MelissaBurgess) April 4, 2021
“Just one or two trans girls who are decent athletes will displace a lot of females.”
Individual teams and players like Whale captain Shannon Doyle or Beauts general manager Nathaniel Oliver made their own statements in support of transgender athletes, but the NWHL and Toronto Six took days to make a statement and have yet to take action since announcing that Digit Murphy has disassociated from the group. The league continues to face criticism for still employing Murphy, not apologizing to Platt, and the continued application of a transgender athlete policy that has a testosterone limit similar to the International Olympic Committee, which excludes many trans women and intersex women.
2. Off-Ice: NWHL releases viewership and engagement data from season six
During the regular season, NWHL games had 2 million total views on Twitch with an estimated 110,021 views per game.
The viewership data was consistent with the playoffs on NBCSN, which saw 106k on the day of the semifinals and 100k for Saturday night’s final. However, only Americans could access the NBCSN coverage, meaning the NBCSN data doesn’t account for international viewers who watched the playoffs on Twitch. Christina Weich released social media data, which included engagement rate for the playoffs and regular season, impressions, and social value. The Isobel Cup-winning Boston Pride saw their Instagram and Twitter followers grow by over 9%.
3. On-Ice: 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship roster for Czech Republic features NWHL players
With the IIHF Women’s World Championship rescheduled to May 6 through May 16, we’re starting to get rosters for the tournament and evaluation camps. Neither Team USA’s roster nor Team Canada’s evaluation camp features any current NWHL players, but the Czech Republic’s roster features Boston Pride’s Tereza Vanišová and Samantha Kolowratová (also known as Sam Kolowrat.) Only the top division will have their Women’s World Championship this year due to COVID-19, meaning we’ll miss watching players like the Boston Pride’s Lovisa Selander in net for Sweden in the Division I, Group A tournament.
Update: As of Wednesday, April 21 the International Ice Hockey Federation announced the cancellation of the Women’s World Championships in Halifax due to an uptick in coronavirus cases in Nova Scotia. The official IIHF statement says that they are looking to relocate the tournament and play in the summer, in which case the same rosters will be used.
4. On-Ice: NWHL awards to be held in April on Twitch with broadcaster Katie Gaus hosting
No specific date has been announced yet, but the league put out a press release stating that the NWHL awards will be broadcasted on Twitch in April. Awards include Most Valuable Player, Goaltender of the Year, Defender of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Kaleigh Fratkin could become the first player to win Defender of the Year twice in a row after a phenomenal two-way performance that cemented her as one of the best puck-moving defenders and passers in the league. Amanda Leveille also looks to be the first to win Goaltender of the Year twice after a 44 save shutout performance in the semifinals. She’ll be challenged by Elaine Chuli who helped the Six to number one in the standings with a .936 regular-season performance.
5. Off Ice: Uncertainty Surrounds the NWHL Draft
The NCAA has allowed athletes an extra year of eligibility due to disruptions around COVID-19. According to reporting from Marisa Ingemi, it seems the majority of women’s hockey seniors are hoping to take advantage of that opportunity.
It’s real tough identifying who are candidates to be drafted. Teams I’ve talked to recently have expressed trouble finding players who *aren’t* returning to college. The majority of them are. It’s going to be a funky draft most likely.— Marisa Ingemi (@Marisa_Ingemi) April 12, 2021
Reporter Dan Rice followed up by stating that teams, as of April 12, were not informed of a draft date or next season’s salary cap yet. With the NWHLPA director seat now vacant, setting a salary cap may take longer, but that may be a good thing for teams trying to figure out who declared an extra year in the NCAA and who didn’t. The Toronto Six, who have three first-round picks in this draft, may look to lean on Canada’s University Sports graduates instead.