The NWHL announced Monday morning that the Connecticut Whale, one of the league’s “Founding Four” franchises, has been sold to Shared Hockey Enterprises (SHE) LLC, a group owned and operated by Tobin Kelly.
Kelly and his team of investors are described in the release as “passionate hockey fans, players and coaches who are all dedicated to growing the sport of women’s hockey.”
“It has been our goal since transitioning to a joint venture model in October to find strong ownership groups who believe in the NWHL and recognize the growth potential for the league and professional women’s hockey,” said NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia in the release. “[Kelly’s] commitment to supporting our athletes, building community partnerships, and enhancing the fan experience represents another significant milestone in league history as we prepare for our seventh season.”
Prior to the sale, the Connecticut Whale were owned by Women’s Hockey Partners (WHP), a group formerly run by league founder Dani Rylan Kearney. Before the acquisition by WHP, the league owned the Whale, along with the Minnesota Whitecaps, the Buffalo Beauts, and the Metropolitan Riveters.
“This is an exciting time for the entire NWHL but most importantly for our players, dedicated partners, and loyal fans,” said WHP President Andy Scurto in the release. “We are proud of the organization’s history as a founding member of this league and are confident that [Kelly’s] passion and energy will honor that tradition and that he and his team will establish a new standard for Whale hockey.”
The Whale are on track to benefit immensely from private ownership. Often overlooked by the rest of the league and affectionately considered one of the league’s biggest underdogs, the Whale have struggled a lot in terms of on-ice production in recent years. Since their 13-5-0 record during the NWHL’s inaugural season, the team has only managed to scrape by the .500 win percentage mark once — during season six in Lake Placid, when the squad only suited up for four regular season games.
In the upcoming NWHL Draft on June 29, the Whale have the second overall pick, and will likely use this to their advantage as they look to secure top talent to bolster their offense and anchor the blue line with the expected loss of veteran Shannon Doyle to retirement.