PWHL Minnesota General Manager Natalie Darwitz Parts Ways with Team

Natalie Darwitz is out as PWHL Minnesota's general manager just 9 days after winning the championships.

PWHL Minnesota General Manager Natalie Darwitz Parts Ways with Team
(Photo via PWHL)

Nine days after PWHL Minnesota won the inaugural Walter Cup and two days before the 2024 Draft in Minnesota, the PWHL announced that General Manager Natalie Darwitz and the team have "parted ways."

The official announcement comes more than a day after reports about Darwitz's departure appeared. Michael Russo and Hailey Salvian of The Athletic initially reported the news late Thursday night/early Friday morning citing team sources.

According to the Athletic's initial reporting, Darwitz was told she would not be returning to her role with the team but was offered other roles in the league. She also could release a statement about moving on. All general managers are on one-year contracts expiring on June 30, according to a different Athletic article.

The PWHL press release had no statement from Darwitz, only a line of appreciation from Jayna Hefford, the PWHL's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Rachel Blount of The Star Tribune in Minnesota later confirmed and expanded on the ousting. Per Blount's reporting, Darwitz clashed with head coach Ken Klee, who was supported by players including captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, who had played for Klee during his tenure as the head coach of Team USA.

The Star Tribune also cites Darwitz and her connections as the reason why the team was able to play in Xcel Energy Center, the only team to consistently play in an NHL arena.

Michael Russo and Joe Smith of The Athletic followed up the initial reporting on Friday with more details on the reasoning, citing a "rift" and two sides emerging amongst the players. They quote an anonymous player supporting Darwitz, saying the general manager was "a pillar for me during a really tough season." The player went on to talk about being spoken to inappropriately and witnessing what they described as "behavior and language that was way out of pocket."

This isn't the first sudden change for the team. Days before the season kicked off, the league announced Charlie Burggraf was stepping down from his role as head coach and Klee would replace him. Per the Athletic, Klee had already interviewed for both the head coach and general manager role.

On the ice, PWHL Minnesota got off to a hot start, winning five straight games. The middle of their season evened out, and then the international break hit. They lost the final five games of the regular season after the break and limped into the playoffs. In the playoffs, they reverse swept Toronto as the four seed to advance to the Walter Cup finals. It took all five games of the Finals before they won the championships.

They were also involved in the first trade of the league - sending forward Susanna Tapani and defender Abby Cook to Boston for defender Sophie Jaques. The trade was a bit of a shock to many, but Jaques thrived in Minnesota. She racked up 10 points in 15 games, after notching zero in seven games with Boston.

There is no timeline for finding a replacement, and the coaching staff will make the selections in Monday's draft.