Welcome to the 2021 NWHL Season Preview!

Answers to all the important questions about two weeks of bubble hockey

Over 300 days have passed since the last time we had an NWHL game. But that will all change on Saturday when the league kicks off its sixth season in a two-week tournament in Lake Placid.

Between Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, there will be 24 NWHL games. If there’s some type of race that combines a sprint and a marathon, that’s what this season will be — a sprint-athon maybe?

As always, we’ve got all the preview content for you’ll want right here this week — answers to frequently asked questions, team previews, rookies, goalies, videos, background reading.

So without further ado...

FAQ about the NWHL’s sixth season

What’s the schedule?

You can find it here!

How can I watch?

The NWHL will stream the first 21 games on their twitch channel. You can watch for free and without an account, but if you want to chat with other fans and use the custom emojis, you’ll have to sign up and subscribe to the channel. If you have Amazon Prime, you can connect it for a free channel subscription, though.

If you’re in the United States, the last three games of the season — the two semifinals and the Isobel Cup Final — will be exclusively on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app. If you’ve cut cable or your cable package doesn’t include the channel, check Hulu Live and YouTube TV. Both will most likely carry the channel in your area (though you should double check for your specific area) and have free trial options.

If you’re outside of the United States, those three games will still be on Twitch.

How did last season go?

The NWHL played every game except the Isobel Cup Final, which was initially postponed and eventually cancelled due to the pandemic. The game was set to be between the Boston Pride and the Minnesota Whitecaps. The Whitecaps won the Isobel Cup in 2019, their first season in the league, making them the technical reigning champions.

Tell me more about the teams!

All throughout the week we’ll have team-specific previews for this season of play!

But here’s the basic history of the teams. The NWHL was founded in 2015 with four teams: the Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts, the Connecticut Whale, and the then-New York Riveters. The Riveters are now known as the Metropolitan Riveters.

The Minnesota Whitecaps were added to the league ahead of the 2018–19 season, the first expansion for the league. The Whitecaps were not a brand-new team, however. Jack Brodt founded the team way back in 2004, and they played in early women’s hockey leagues and as an independent team until 2018. Brodt is still the general manager and the coach of the team.

The Toronto Six are the newest team in the league and are the NWHL’s first truly new team. They were announced this offseason and are privately owned.

Speaking of ownership, the Pride are also privately owned as they were bought from the league’s central ownership group in September 2019.

If that sentence seems strange to you as a fan of men’s sports, that makes sense. Until October 2020, teams were all “centrally owned” by the NWHL itself (unless they were bought), a very different model than the big four men’s leagues.

This offseason, the league underwent a governance change. Now, the league is an unincorporated association with a Board of Governors, following the same model as the NHL, MLB, and NFL.

Part of this restructuring was a new commissioner for the league, as Ty Tumminia took over for Dani Rylan Kearney, the founder of the NWHL and only commissioner to that point. Rylan Kearney is now the president of Women’s Hockey Partners, the investment group that owns the Beauts, the Whale, the Riveters, and the Whitecaps.

That got a little off topic of just the teams, but the background is probably important to know.

Anything else important to know?

Obviously, the other big news out of the offseason is the reason you’re here — the season is being played in a condensed two-week tournament in Lake Placid due to the pandemic.

Because women’s hockey players are not paid a living wage, nearly every player in the league works a full-time job. Obviously, that creates some complications when you can’t play a traditional NWHL season of just weekend games. This is also why weekday games begin at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, so players can work from Lake Placid during the day.

The NWHL gave every player the option to opt out of the season and still receive their full contracted pay. Thus far, at least two players have publicly announced they cannot go due to full-time job commitments — the Buffalo Beauts’ Taylor Accursi and the Whale’s Melissa Samoskevich.

The league partnered with Yale for COVID-19 testing while in Lake Placid. They’ll use SalivaDirect as well as nasal samples to test the players and staff.

I don’t have a favorite team yet, nor do I have a geographic preference. How should I pick a team to root for?

We have a handy-dandy flowchart to help you with that!

I have a question not covered here.

Drop it in the comments and one of us will answer!

Preview Links

As we publish each of our previews, we’ll add links below, so keep checking back!

What storylines to expect in Lake Placid

Metropolitan Riveters

Boston Pride

Connecticut Whale

Buffalo Beauts

Toronto Six

Minnesota Whitecaps

Video: NWHL teams before the NDubble

Rookies to Watch

Veterans to Watch

Scouting the league’s rookie goaltenders

Rink-quired reading

Some of these we’ve talked about above, others are just good to know! They’re in no real particular order, to be honest.

Beauts’ Taylor Accursi to sit out NWHL season six

How to pick which NWHL team to support

NWHL releases 2020-21 schedule

NBCSN to broadcast NWHL playoff semifinal games, Isobel Cup final from Lake Placid

NWHL partners with Yale on COVID-19 Testing

NWHL will have all-female officiating crews in Lake Placid

TIG Roundtable: The jersey edition

NWHL reveals Lake Placid logo

6 NWHL players pop in to talk about the bubble

TIG Roundtable: Our thoughts on the NWHL bubble

NWHL plans to play 20-21 season in a bubble

TIG Roundtable: Reactions to the changes in the NWHL

NWHL changes governance structure, including new Commissioner in Tyler Tumminia

Video: A Beginner’s Guide to the NWHL