Today, the NWHL announced that the 2016-17 season will conclude on March 19th to satisfy the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships. The international tournament is set to begin March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan. The season will end early, as opposed to taking a three-week break, as originally scheduled. The NWHL playoffs will take place March 17-19. The semifinal rounds will now be a one-game elimination on March 17 (1st vs 4th) and March 18 (2nd vs 3rd). The weekend will conclude with the Isobel Cup Final on March 19.
In a press release, Commissioner Dani Rylan stated, “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.” Rylan went on to say, “We always want to be supportive of our national team players...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.”
Meghan Duggan, on the Isobel Cup Final being completed by March 19, before the World Championships. pic.twitter.com/6OcOPjRooG— NWHL (@NWHL) February 3, 2017
With the shortened schedule, the New York Riveters will have four games left in the season, the Buffalo Beauts and the Connecticut Whale will have five games remaining, and the Boston Pride have six games remaining. At the conclusion of the season, New York and Connecticut will have 18 games played, while Boston and Buffalo will have 17 games played.
As of now, the league has not released the location or times of the NWHL playoff games.
NWHL announces future plans
In addition to the shortened season and the playoffs schedule, the NWHL announced the league will return for a third and fourth season. The Founding Four franchises: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, and the New York Riveters will return for the third season.
In the press release, Rylan also addressed expansion: “We have received interest from several markets and prospective ownership groups, and we will review these options over the next year.” The commissioner estimates that the league will need to expand to keep up with the growing talent pool of women’s ice hockey. However, next season will involve no such expansion.
Instead, Rylan stated the league will test the waters. “The [founding four] teams will play the majority of the schedule in their home markets, with the possibility of a few neutral-site games during the regular season in order to promote the league and gauge reaction to prospective expansion franchises.”
The 2017-18 season will run without the national team members who will centralize leading up to the 2018 Olympics set for February in PyeongChang, Korea. “Although we will miss the Olympians and can’t wait to cheer them on, we have a great season in store for 2017-18,” said Rylan. She added that neutral site games against national teams are in the works.
Battaglino tapped as NWHLPA Director
Finally, the league announced that Connecticut Whale practice player Anya Battaglino will serve as the Director of the NWHLPA.
In December, Battaglino told The Ice Garden that her biggest mission was player representation at an advisory level. In her new role, she has remained steadfast in her goal: “It is extremely important for the players to get a seat at the table to advocate for the betterment of the league,” said Battaglino in the press release. “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.”
Rylan added, “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.”