The last week of April brought excitement for season seven as the NWHL looks towards the draft, free agency and new hires. As we closed out season six with the NWHL Awards (stay tuned for more on that!), here are some big details to prepare for next October.
1. Off Ice: Colleen Coyne named Boston Pride’s team president
Following the departure of former team president Hayley Moore, who was hired by the American Hockey League, the Boston Pride has announced that former Team USA Olympian Colleen Coyne will oversee all business and hockey decisions. Coyne won a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics, and was appointed to the USA Hockey Board of Directors in 2005 as well as their Women’s National Team Advisory Committee. She also has marketing experience with companies such as Microsoft, Hubspot, and the DRIVN Coaching Platform.
In addition to her experience on the national team program, Coyne was on the board of directors for the former Canadian Women’s Hockey League in the 2010-2011 season, giving her a wealth of experience in the realm of professional hockey.
2. On Ice: The NWHL draft is set for June 29, with the first ever live draft show!
On Tuesday, June 29 at 7 P.M. EST the NWHL will have its first ever draft show on twitch.tv/nwhl. The five-round, thirty-pick selection process will primarily be for players who’ve completed their NCAA or USPORTS eligibility. The order of selection was decided by winning percentage and will go in the following order; Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride, Toronto Six, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps. The Toronto Six received Boston’s first and second round picks as well as the Riveters’ first round pick in trades last season, giving them five picks in the first two rounds.
As mentioned last week, the extra year of eligibility granted to many NCAA and USPORTS athletes as a result of the pandemic means the draft isn’t nearly as deep as it has been in prior years, with many top players choosing to return to college for an additional season. Teams may need to look deeper into the USports and NCAA Division III talent pools than they have in previous years to both find the talent they’re looking for as well as a player who is ready to go pro. Last year’s draft saw the highest-ever percentage of picks signing with their respective teams, with most teams having a likely signing agreement or an idea of the player’s future plans before selecting them.
3. Off Ice: NWHL Salary Cap will double to 300k
Per initial reporting by Sportsnet’s Marisa Ingemi, the NWHL Salary Cap will be set at 300k next season. The increase is double what it was last year (150k) and exceeds the salary cap from the inaugural season (270k) before the league was forced to cut salaries to stay in business. That sudden salary cut came as a shock to players, and many looked to instead play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after their contracts were up due to the lack of transparency. Between the news of the salary cap increasing and a change of commissioner from founder Dani Rylan to Tyler Tumminia, the NWHL hopes to make amends and prevent a similar mistake from happening again. Reporter Dan Rice for The Hockey Writers stated that the NWHL hasn’t settled on a league minimum salary, but one will be determined for the first time.
Some news: the NWHL will announce the salary cap doubling for the 2021-22 season tomorrow. It’ll bump up to $300k.— Marisa Ingemi (@Marisa_Ingemi) April 28, 2021
For comparison, the National Women’s Soccer League has their salary capped at $650,000, with two more years under its belt and help from the United States Soccer Federation.
4. On Ice: NWHL’s Free Agency begins on May 15
NWHL teams have exclusive negotiation rights with their own players and sign them up until May 15, after which players become unrestricted free agents and can talk to both their team of the prior season and new teams. Players who signed up for the NWHL draft but didn’t get drafted can join in on free agency after the draft. International players who will be over the age of twenty-one by September of 2021 can sign up for free agency whether they played collegiate sports or not.
With the salary cap increasing next season, general managers can hope to attract professional players from other leagues like the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association or North American players who have gone overseas in past seasons. A name like Logan Land, who was drafted by the Buffalo Beauts last year and presumably had some interest in the league before ultimately becoming a part of the PWHPA’s independent branch may be a name teams will look at. Less uncertainty around how to play a season as vaccinations continue in North America could entice players to sign as well.
5. Off Ice: Carlee Turner, Jenna Rheault, and Taylor Wenczkowski bring the Isobel Cup to Arizona
The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes program for youth girls, the Arizona Kachinas, invited three Boston Pride players to meet their team and show them the Isobel Cup. Carlee Turner is a Scottsdale, Arizona native and joins former Minnesota Whitecap Katie McGovern and Team USA Olympian Lindsay Fry as Arizona-born women’s hockey players featured by the Coyote’s franchise. As the NHL has left it up to individual franchises to decide if and how they’ll get involved in women’s hockey, the Coyotes working with NWHL and PWHPA players to grow the sport amongst women in a nontraditional hockey market is significant. Hopefully, we’ll get to see one of the current Kachinas lift the Isobel Cup a few years down the line.
Image courtesy of Michelle Jay, NWHL