You’ve got questions while watching the NWHL on Twitch? We’ve got answers!
About the League
Q: What level of play is this?
A: A professional women’s league. This is the NWHL, which is currently the only North American professional women’s hockey league and was the first ever to pay its players.
Q: How old are these players?
A: The age ranges from 21 to 42. The youngest is Riveters forward, Tatiana Shatalova and the oldest is Whitecaps defender Winny Brodt-Brown. The average age of the league this season is 25.5.
Q: How many teams are there in this league?
A: Six! The Minnesota Whitecaps, the Boston Pride, the Connecticut Whale, the Buffalo Beauts, the Metropolitan Riveters, and the Toronto Six. Originally there were four which we consider ‘The Founding Four’, but Minnesota was added as an expansion team prior to the 2018-19 season, and then Toronto was added prior to the 2021 season. The Whitecaps went on to win their first Isobel Cup their first season.
Q: Where are the teams based?
A: The Whitecaps are in Saint Paul, Minnesota and play at TRIA rink. The Riveters are in at Floyd Hall Arena on Montclair State University’s campus in New Jersey. The Whale are in Danbury, Connecticut and play at Danbury rink. The Pride are in Boston, Massachusetts and play at Warrior Ice Arena. The Beauts are in Amherst, New York and play at Northtown Center. The Six play at Canlan Ice Sports north of Toronto.
Q: Is there fighting/contact allowed?
A: Similarly to the NHL, fighting and body contact does happen but it is penalized. The NWHL follows NCAA rules meaning that body checking of any kind will result in at least a minor penalty. Up to the discretion of the referees, it could result in a major penalty, ejection, and game suspension as well. Most typically it is simply a minor though. This also does not include incidental contact. Incidental contact is not penalized.
As soon as a punch is thrown, fighting penalties may be handed out. Any player who engages in fighting will be ejected from the game and another player will have to sit for a major penalty. After that, a one-game suspension may be assessed according to the league’s evaluation of the incident.
Both of these rules can be found and expanded on in the NCAA rulebook under Rule 48 and 94.
Q: Do they have their own Cup?
A: They do! The winner of the championship game wins the Isobel Cup which is named after Lord Stanley’s daughter, Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy. The only team to have not won a cup is the Whale and the newly added Six. All other teams have won once.
Q: Are these players paid? How much?
A: The league minimum is $5,500 USD and the maximum is $15,000. The salary cap per team going into this season was $150,000. Release of salary information is left up to the discretion of each player individually so some are known and some aren’t. While this is their direct salary from the league, this is not all the money they make. The NWHL has a 50/50 revenue split, meaning the players earn 50 percent of revenue earned from sponsorship deals, including Twitch subscription and broadcasting revenue. They also earn 15 percent of revenue made from merchandise sales on merchandise with their name and likeness.
Q: Do all the teams make the playoffs?
A: In past seasons, the top three automatically make the playoffs. The fourth and fifth place teams play a play-in game, which acts as a wild card game, to determine who will be in the playoffs. After that, it is bracket style in one game eliminations. We don’t have it confirmed for this season yet.
Q: How often do they play? Is this the only place I can watch them?
A: There are 24 games per team per season. All games take place on Saturday or Sunday every week, with a few exceptions of make-up or holiday games. The NWHL has two Twitch channels, NWHL and NWHL2, where they can broadcast two games at once if needed. This is the only place to watch games live.
Q: Are these the players I see in the Olympics?
A: This season, they are not. While many national team members have previously been apart of the NWHL, they are currently not as almost 200 of them are participating in a movement to sit out of North American leagues citing lack of healthcare and low wages as a cause for concern going forward. Most players currently in the NWHL are former college hockey players ranging from division I to division III.
Q: Do they have health insurance or medical coverage?
A: They do! Anya Packer, the Director of the NWHLPA, said in a statement to The Ice Garden, “Worker’s compensation insurance covers total income. For example if a player is injured, that player gets paid lost wages from NWHL (missed games and practices) further if that player misses work (a second job) and misses wages those wages are paid as well.
The player will need to show income from second source, but once validated, that lost wage will be paid. All players in the league are completely covered on ice medically for in-game injuries as well as their full-time jobs. For example, if a player were to miss games and in addition miss days of work for their other job, the NWHL fully compensates for financial loss.”
Q: Do they play by different rules than the NHL? Different OT rules?
A: Aside from the fighting/body checking rules, there are a few differences between the two leagues.
In the event of a tie, for overtime the NWHL will play a 5-minute 4-on-4 period before going to a shootout with follows the same rules as the NHL. Both teams are awarded a point in the standings for going to overtime, and two are awarded to the winner.
There is no trapezoid rule for the goaltender, meaning a goaltender in the NWHL is not restricted in where they can handle the puck behind their own goal line.
If a goal is scored during a delayed penalty, that penalty still must be served.
Bench doors may not be opened during play.
Q: Are any of these teams partnered with NHL teams?
A: Currently two are. The Whitecaps are partnered with the Wild and the Pride are partnered with the Bruins. These teams play their home games at the same rinks where the NHL teams practice.
The Riveters used to be partnered with the Devils, and the Beauts used to be partnered with the Sabres while also being owned by PSE however those partnerships have been severed.
Q: Will the league expand? To where?
A: Most likely, yes. A frequent topic of conversation during NWHL games is where the league can or should expand to. The most notable places are Pittsburgh, Madison, D.C., and Nashville as those are places with prominent women’s sports support or where the NWHL All-Star games have previously been held and had success. Everyone is always encouraged to share their thoughts on this topic.
Q: Do they have an All-Star game? Where?
A: The NWHL began hosting an All-Star game during its first season which includes a two-team game accompanied by a skills competition. They have been held in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Nashville previously. Last year it was held in Boston, February 8-9 which was also streamed on Twitch.
Q: How else can I support the league?
Q: How can I subscribe/get emotes?
A: Because Twitch is owned by Amazon, if you have a Prime account you can subscribe for free. If not, there are three tiers to subscriptions with the default being $4.99 USD per month and rising from there. You can make a one-time or monthly payments. The NWHL will receive half of that, and in turn the players will receive a quarter of a subscription due to the league’s revenue split. Subscribing will get you league custom emotes, badges, and some special opportunities. You also have a ‘follow’ option which allows you to keep up with the channels without the special features or spending money.
Q: What are emotes?
A: Emotes are Twitch specific emoticons or emojis. The NWHL has custom ones for each team. You can use them any time in the chat with a subscription.
Q: Why are there two channels?
A: The NWHL currently owns two channels on Twitch. ‘NWHL’ and ‘NWHL2.’ This is for when there are two games at once being played, so there is no cutting into other games. This also means you will have to follow and subscribe to both to access all emotes and features.
Q: What is squad mode?
A: ‘Switch to squad mode’ will appear on your screen when two NWHL games are happening at once between the two channels. If you click on it, you will be able to stream both games at once. You will only be able to hear audio for one game of your choice at a time, but you’ll have access to both chats.