NWHL All-Star Weekend dates, location set

Hello, Twin Cities, it’s nice to finally see you!

It’s a new partnership and a new setting for the NWHL’s All-Star festivities next month, as the league announced in a press release Friday the dates and location for this year’s contest.

The Minnesota Wild will play host to the weekend-long event at their new practice facility, TRIA Rink, in downtown St. Paul Feb. 10 and 11. The Skills Challenge will take place Saturday, Feb. 10 at 6:45 p.m., while the All-Star Game itself is slated for 11:30 a.m. Sunday (all times Central).

Commissioner Dani Rylan was excited at the prospect of taking the league to a new market, as stated in the press release:

“We are so proud to have the opportunity to present the NWHL All-Star Weekend in St. Paul. As we strive to enhance our league and promote the women’s game, our goal has been to showcase the great players of the NWHL beyond our original four markets. We’re thankful for this partnership with the Minnesota Wild, a top NHL franchise that does so much for the development of hockey across all levels and genders.”

In an interesting turn, the NWHL has also invited the Minnesota Whitecaps to participate. The Whitecaps will choose two players to take part in both the skills competition and the All-Star game. No word yet on who those two players will be, but it’ll be a blast to see some more out of the team that played a few exhibition games against NWHL teams back during the league’s inaugural season.

It’ll also be interesting to see how fans respond to this kind of setting. While there have been plenty of questions surrounding the prospect of the NWHL expanding to Minnesota at some point, this is a step toward, at the very least, a working relationship between the NW and an NHL team in the Midwest, much like the one they’re maintaining with the Pittsburgh Penguins (as evidenced by this weekend’s game between the Beauts and the Whale at UPMC Lemieux). Still, it’ll be a game in St. Paul in mid-February a week after Super Bowl weekend, which leads me to wonder how travel will work for both teams and fans alike.

Captains have already been chosen for the respective All-Star teams. Buffalo Beauts goaltender and former Golden Gopher Amanda Leveille is one, along with Boston Pride netminder Brittany Ott. According to league PR rep Chris Botta, the NWHL hopes to have the rest of the rosters, with coaching staff, set by the end of next week.

Stay tuned for more on the All-Star Game as news develops.