It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year. No, not the holidays, but NWHL All-Star Weekend. And by almost I mean there’s two open weekends in February (aka two months away) which has historically been when the skills competition and game are held.
But the question is where?
In the past, the league has used the weekend as a way to test new markets. The third season, All-Star Weekend was in St. Paul, Minnesota and partnered with the Whitecaps, who joined the leagues months later. The second season’s event in Pittsburgh was so successful, they returned for regular season games in the next two regular seasons.
They’ve also tried to grow the reach of the league, like last season when they went to Nashville in a surprising move.
Given the variety of places they’ve been so far, really anywhere is possible. We at The Ice Garden threw around some ideas of new cities, ranging from the slightly-improbably California to Ohio State University to Danbury. We came up with five possible cities the NWHL could host the 2020 All-Star Weekend.
The NWHL hasn’t held an in-market All-Star Weekend since the very first season in Buffalo. I think its time to head back to one, and Boston makes the most sense (and not just because I wouldn’t have to travel). The Pride are the league’s hottest team this season and that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. They routinely draw large crowds, which surely the All-Star Weekend could replicate.
It’s also a women’s hockey hot bed with multiple colleges around to draw fans from — or host it at if the league wants a larger venue than Warrior. While working around their schedules might be the linchpin here, any of the venues are appropriately sized and located for such an event. There’s also the opportunity to work in the college rivalries (can we get a team of Boston University players against a team of Boston College players?!) as a marketing tactic.
While not quite the women’s college hockey mecca that Madison, Wisconsin is, Detroit, Michigan is home to numerous girls teams of all levels. With other Midwest cities within driving distance, building a fan base in Madison Packer’s home city wouldn’t be difficult.
The new city would give the NWHL an opportunity to test a new Midwest market as well. In addition, they hosted an outdoor youth camp in the past. If the Red Wings were involved — similar to how the Predators were last season — this could be another successful and fun (albeit cold) weekend.
Women’s hockey fans in the capital have been clamoring for any type of event, and I think it time to bring it to them. The interest is clearly there, and it would also be an interesting market to test for whenever expansion is on the table in the future.
Raleigh, North Carolina
The area has a surprising number of players with roots in the area. Riveters defender Colleen Murphy and Beauts players Tiffany Hsu and Kelsey Neumann all play on the Lady Hurricanes team with Murphy still living in North Carolina as well.
The market also readily embraces the fun side of hockey and rallies around that aspect. The All-Star Weekend is a celebration of the game and the skill of its players but also a fun weekend, a perfect fit for Raleigh.
Who else is ready for another warm weather All-Star Weekend?! Florida in February sounds great.
The NWHL has already been to Tampa before as well. In 2011-18 season, they played Team USA in a two-game series ahead of the Olympics. The games - as well as the National Team events - were well attended. This past offseason they held a youth camp down there. While it doesn’t make sense as an expansion market, hosting in a new city is a great way to grow the game.
Where do you think this season’s All-Star Weekend will be? Where do you want it to be? Let us know in the comments!