7 reasons why the NWHL’s next expansion location should be Washington, D.C.

It’s worth it for the name ideas alone. Seriously.

The National Women’s Hockey League has plans to grow. As recently as November 2019, commissioner Dani Rylan has mentioned the league’s desire to expand into Canada in the near future. The league even made plans to add two teams there (likely Toronto and Montréal) soon after the CWHL folded in 2019, although this has been delayed for now.

But what about the next expansion team after that? I’m here today to convince you that the perfect expansion location is the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital. You might think that I’m biased because I live here, and it’s true. I am biased. But I think I can prove my point, so here’s a list of reasons that anyone could agree with.

1. I already came up with some fantastic name ideas.

I’ve lived in D.C. for nearly four years, so I’ve had lots of time to come up with name ideas for this hypothetical team I’ve been dreaming about. Here’s the cream of the crop.

  • D.C. Justice: My personal favorite. This name is a two-in-one deal because it comes with a mascot. Lady Justice is the personification of, believe it or not, the general idealized concept of justice. She wears a toga, is usually blindfolded, and carries a sword (which sounds a little bit like a hazing ritual, but apparently is what our legal system is based on).  Imagine her as a logo on a royal blue jersey. This team would look so good.
  • Washington Stars: Did you know that the American flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem now lives in the Smithsonian Museum of American History? This name would pay homage to the stars and stripes. Or, keeping with the extraterrestrial theme, it could be the “Washington Nova,” because so much of the Washington Metropolitan Area’s population lives in NoVa (Northern Virginia) anyway. Arlington, Virginia is even where the Capitals’ practice rink is located.
  • Washington T-Rex: One of the things that I wish more people associated with D.C. is its impressive amount of dinosaurs. Did you know that the National Museum of Natural History’s collection currently boasts an 85% complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton? This name could also encourage a partnership between the Smithsonian and the hypothetical team, which is good, because the world needs more museum and sports team friendships.
  • Washington Rush: It’s a tribute to rush hour traffic.
  • District Statehood: A name AND a message!
  • D.C. Happy Hours: Okay, now I’m just spitballing./

2. The local hockey market is pretty good.

Not many people think of D.C. as a hockey town. I’m here to assure you that this is wrong.

There is an existing professional hockey team in D.C. called the Washington Capitals. You may have heard of them. They have the popularity that comes with being a recent Stanley Cup champion, and besides that have one of the largest and most enthusiastic fanbases of any professional sports team in the city. And these are fairly passionate fans that do a great job spreading the word about the Caps (I have to shoutout Russian Machine Never Breaks as an example of this). And that territory extends into several of the surrounding states as well.

Essentially, if you count the entire population of the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) region that currently live in D.C. hockey territory, you’ve got a solid potential fanbase of 15.2 million people. That’s not too shabby, in my opinion.

3. It would be a great way to grow the game in D.C.

That being said, D.C. has room to grow when it comes to other levels of hockey. Although there are eight universities within the District that have NCAA athletic programs, none of them includes an ice hockey team for men or women. The  prospective NWHL team could foster more youth involvement in the sport and create a pool of talent to encourage these colleges to develop teams. As you may have already figured out, I have no idea how new college sport programs get started. But my theory sounds realistic, so I stand by it.

4. Travel time and costs would be reasonable

The closest existing NWHL team to D.C. is the Metropolitan Riveters in New Jersey, only 188 miles away, which is around a three hour drive. That’s the same length as watching Little Women approximately 1.5 times. Very reasonable, and Connecticut isn’t much farther. Boston and Buffalo are both seven hours on the road. That’s three Little Womens, which is a reasonable amount to watch on any given weekend.

And Minnesota is... somewhere. I don’t know. But teams have a pretty good success rate getting there and back so far, and the DMV area has three major airports to choose from.

5. There are so many Dunkin’ Donuts locations in the District!

Perhaps the NWHL’s largest and most loyal sponsor is Dunkin’ Donuts. More than that, the league’s current players, staff, and fans truly do run on Dunkin’. By my latest count, there are 15 Dunkin’ Donuts locations within the boundaries District of Columbia, which is enough to sustain one NWHL team. Yes, there’s a threshold. Don’t worry about it.

But each city has its own fun league and team sponsors, so here are few examples of local businesses that would bring an excellent energy to the new team’s marketing:

  • A League of Her Own: It’s a lesbian sports bar. How cool is that?
  • Under Armour: Headquartered in Baltimore, which is right near D.C.
  • Georgetown Cupcake: Arguably not even the best cupcake bakery in D.C., but it is the only one with a circa-2010 TLC TV show.
  • Kick Axe Throwing: It’s an axe throwing bar. Mostly I just want an excuse to go here./

6. The NWHL team would join an existing squad of fun professional women’s sports teams in the city

The NWHL’s new team would be in good company, because the Washington Mystics (WNBA) and Washington Spirit (NWSL) already have strong legacies in the city. The Mystics are probably the most winningest team in D.C. at the moment and won the WNBA’s championship in 2019. (plus they’re owned by Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the same company that owns the Capitals, insert eyes emoji). The Spirit are a decently-performing NWSL team and finished second in the league in 2016.

Long story short, I want the D.C. hockey squad to be friends with the likes of Rose Lavelle and Natasha Cloud. How cool would that be?

7. They’d already have at least one season ticket holder.

I’m a Western New York native, so the Buffalo Beauts will always be my ride or die team (#BeautsorBust, babeyyy). But I can promise that I’ll be the first season ticket holder when we finally get to see the D.C. Justice. Or Washington Stars. Whatever it ends up being called, I know I (and many other local hockey fans) will be very grateful to have a team in our city.

Where do we play from here? Potential markets for women’s hockey expansion