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New NWHL team brings a new schedule for 2020-2021 season

Plus season five’s streaming numbers

Michelle Jay

The sixth NWHL season will feature six teams as today, the league announced expansion into Toronto. The release also detailed a bit of what the season will look as well.

The season will start later than it has in previous season, with a scheduled mid-November start. The playoffs will start mid-March, finishing two weeks before the start of the 2021 World Championships. Typically the puck drops in early October with the regular season ending in the beginning of March and the playoffs wrapped up by mid-March.

The numbers of games per team will be 20. In season five, the league expanded the schedule to 24 games per team, a huge jump from the 16 from the first four years. Although the regular season is shortened, there will be just as many total regular season games as there were last year (60).

It’s also worth noting that we are not yet sure what impact this will have on the Isobel Cup Playoffs. In recent years, the NWHL has had one-game playoffs and for the past two years a Play-In game between the league’s fourth and fifth place teams determined which team would advance to the Isobel Cup Semifinal to play the team that finished first in the standings. The addition of Toronto raises the question of whether or not every team will be in the playoffs and what format the playoffs will take.

In terms of broadcast and streaming, the NWHL is one year into a three-year deal with Twitch as their streaming partner. Their historic agreement was a first in women’s hockey as it included a media rights fee, where the Amazon-owned company paid the league for the broadcast rights. The move from YouTube and Twitter stream for the games and a weekly talk show garnered 8 million views, a nearly 93 percent increase from last season.

However, in the press release, they said they expect “to execute more national and regional broadcast deals in Canada and the U.S. in the coming seasons.” Previously, select CWHL games were broadcast across Canada on Sportsnet.