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Women’s Hockey Making Strides

Professional women’s hockey is set to return to Canada, with the National Women’s Hockey League made it official announcing it is expanding to Toronto.

The NWHL was founded in 2015 as the first pro Women’s league in North America’s as well as to pay its players.  

Currently the league has teams located in Boston; Monmouth Junction, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; and Saint Paul, Minnesota..

The Team is yet to be named but the ownership group is led by Johanna Boynton, the former Harvard Capitan with Margaret (Digit) Murphy (58) (former Brown coach) is the team’s president and reported to have five players under contract.

League founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan mentioned “Launching our first team in Canada is a pivotal and proud moment for the NWHL and the Toronto team increases the U.S.-based NWHL’s number of franchises to six and comes a year after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded after 12 seasons because of financial instability.

All five players signed previously played in the CWHL, with the most notable being Shiann Darkangelo, a member of the 2016 world championship-winning U.S. team. 

Image Credit: Pixabay

The four other players are Canadians: forward Taylor Woods, defencemen Kristen Barbara and Emma Greco and goalie Elaine Chuli.

Murphy has spent 22 seasons at Brown, but spent many long hours in Canada working on recruiting players to play for her squad.

While at Brown she won 318 games, two CWHL championships during her three seasons coaching the Boston Blades, and spent the 2017-18 season coaching a CWHL expansion team in China.

There is no guarantee that the NWHL can attract players from the rosters of current U.S. or Canadian national teams after their members helped form the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association after the CWHL’s demise.

The PWHPA frowned at competing professionally in North America last season but instead wanted a single league capable of paying players a fair wage and with a financially stable model.

Liz Knox the former CWHL goalie and PWHPA member had questions about the timing of the NWHL announcement by referring to the coronavirus pandemic and writing in a text message: “It’s difficult to imagine expansion being at the forefront of many business strategies.”

“Our vision has not changed as we move forward, but our priorities now lie on the health and safety of our players, staff, volunteers and fans,” 

The NWHL was unable to complete its season after postponing its championship game due to the coronavirus pandemic and reported that Boston was scheduled to host Minnesota in the Isobel Cup Final March 13. 

The game is expected to be played before the league opens its 2020-21 season in mid-November.

The NWHL does not reveal its financial numbers or all player salaries, with some making as much as $15,000 last season. 

The league introduced a plan to share 50% of revenue generated from sponsorship and media deals on top of player salaries.

Murphy has yet to secure a home rink and is in the process of hiring a coach and general manager.

She was brought on board by Boynton, whom she’s known for numerous years. Boynton runs a home-building construction company outside of Boston and holds an ownership stake in the NWHL’s Boston Pride.

The Toronto team’s executive includes Tyler Tumminia, who has been named chairman. She has experience overseeing minor league baseball franchises and is co-owner of a Futures Collegiate Baseball League team in Massachusetts.

With nearly 8,000 women registered to play hockey in Ontario, she (Murphy) is quite confident she can produce a competitive roster to hit the ice.

Time will tell!!