NWHL changes governance structure, including new Commissioner in Tyler Tumminia

Dani Rylan Kearney, the founder and original commissioner, will have a new role.

The National Women’s Hockey League will begin its sixth season with a restructured front office model and governance, the league is set to announce Tuesday morning.

The NWHL’s inaugural commissioner and founder, Dani Rylan Kearney, will step down from her role to become the President of the original NWHL ownership group of the four non-independently owned teams.

Rylan Kearney and the rest of the league’s core investment group will operate Metropolitan, Connecticut, Minnesota and Buffalo and has the goal of selling them to new ownership groups in the coming months and years. The league has previously said investors include Andy Scurto, Neil Leibman, Joel Leonoff, and Scott McCormack, among others.

Tyler Tumminia will be appointed the NWHL’s interim commissioner. She originally was slated to be the Chairperson of the Toronto Six, one of the league’s two independently owned teams, along with the Boston Pride. Tumminia will leave that role.

“The overall objective is elevating all aspects of the NWHL — attendance, fan engagement, player resources, broadcast deals, operations, partnerships and everything else,” said  Tumminia in an email to The Ice Garden. “Together with the players, staff and partners, and with our new governance model, we’ll build long-term sustainability for women’s professional hockey in North America.”

Before last season, Boston became the league’s only independently operated team when Miles Arnone acquired the club. Since then, the NWHL announced its expansion to Toronto in April, where Tumminia was a part of that original all-women ownership group.

The league still plans to expand to new markets, with announcements forthcoming in the next weeks and months according to the league, but will actively be shopping the remaining four teams with full intent to have an entire franchise model, akin to the major four sports leagues in North America.

“Conversations with prospective partners have already started. I don’t want to telegraph what’s ahead because that’s counterproductive,” said Tumminia. “But over the next year and beyond, you will see an increase in partnerships and sponsorship deals that are really meaningful to the advancement of the league.”

The NWHL will become an unincorporated association with a Board of Governors that includes Scurto, John Boynton, and others with varying levels of involvement. The league is using the same approach as the NHL, MLB, and NFL.

The new alignment comes with a focus on getting the four remaining teams to their own independently operated ventures.

“Any major re-set and restructuring brings opportunity,” Tumminia said. “For the NWHL and our teams, it’s a time for transformation and innovation, to look at new ways of presenting women’s hockey and the awesome athletes and people who play the game. We are all incredibly optimistic about the league and the continued massive growth of the game for women and girls at all levels. This is a new era.”