The National Women’s Hockey League made several announcements pertaining to the future of this season and the future of the league on Thursday, including a shortened season this year and Anya Battaglino being named as the director of the NWHL Players’ Association.
The NWHL and player representatives agreed to complete the Isobel Cup Playoffs before March 19, when the national team players leave to participate in the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship. The original schedule had a three-week break around the time of the World Championships, with the playoffs beginning in late April upon the players’ return. However, the players had requested the earlier end to the season so the national team players could be in peak condition for the World Championships and start preparing for the 2018 Olympics.
“One of the primary missions of the NWHL is to help women realize Olympic dreams and national team aspirations, so concluding our season prior to the World Championships is the right thing to do,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said in a statement. “We always want to be supportive of our national team players, so we’re glad to have worked something out with the player reps. In the end, we all want what’s best for women’s hockey, and you’ll see that in the sprint to this year’s Isobel Cup and in the coming seasons of the NWHL. It’s a very exciting time for the game and for our League.”
The league also announced that Connecticut Whale defender Anya Battaglino has been named as the NWHL Players’ Association director.
“It is extremely important for the players to get a seat at the table to advocate for the betterment of the league,” Battaglino said in the statement. “We are so excited as a unit to continue to forge a strong relationship with Commissioner Rylan and the league office and I am honored to have the support of the NWHLPA as I step into this role. It is humbling to be able to continue to pioneer for women’s sports in a leadership position and even more of an honor to represent such amazing athletes. Being the voice of the athletes is an extremely important task. I’m grateful to have the support of all of the representatives to continue our conversations into the off season to grow the league and strive for success for all of women’s hockey.”
A few minutes after the announcement, Battaglino confirmed the news on her Twitter page.
— Anya Battaglino (@battaglinoa) February 2, 2017
Rylan also said in the statement, “I look forward to collaborating with Anya and all of the player reps on our vision for next season and beyond. The input of the players is vital to everything we do.”
The league also announced that the league is still planning on playing the 2017-18 season, with a few potential neutral-site games and games against national teams to gauge potential expansion franchises.
“We’re very happy to be at full strength for Year 3 of the NWHL,” Rylan said in the statement. “The talent pool in women’s hockey is so deep and we are highly motivated to showcase these outstanding athletes. Although we will miss the Olympians and can’t wait to cheer them on, we have a great season in store for 2017-18 with the Pride, Beauts, Whale and Riveters. As part of it, we are looking at presenting a few games outside of Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut and the New York City area. These will help inform future decisions about expansion.”
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Rylan also said in the statement that the NWHL is reviewing potential expansion candidates, but none of those would take effect until the 2018-19 season, at the earliest.
“We have received interest from several markets and prospective ownership groups, and we will review these options over the next year,” Rylan said. “We’re grateful for their enthusiasm for the NWHL and professional women’s hockey. Women’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. Last year alone, USA Hockey saw close to 5% growth in girls’ registration. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll have to expand to accommodate both the talent pool and the fan base.”