Buffalo Beauts players salute the crowd after a home game. Photo By: Michael Hertzel
In October of 2015, I entered the HarborCenter in Buffalo to a banner that read “History Begins” and I was overwhelmed with excitement to see the bold and fearless dreamers who were taking the ice and making their mark on history. Breaking boundaries and chasing dreams, I didn’t think it could get any better than that, but upon entering the arena in October of 2016 there was another sign and an updated slogan reading: “History Continues.” I’m glad to say that I was wrong – it did in fact get even better, and the best is still yet to come.
Last season, the National Women’s Hockey League stretched its wings to the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where 28 All Stars, from teams Kessel and Steadman, dazzled yet another passionate hockey fan base and connected with countless young fans.
Season two saw a powerful Pride build on the momentum from an inaugural season Isobel Cup Championship, and dominate nearly every statistic on the league’s leaderboards. It boasted a rugged troop of Riveters, including an All-Star MVP, the 2017 Best Goaltender recipient and the NWHL’s fastest skater. Not to be outdone, the Whale’s potent pod touted two of the league’s top three highest percentage snipers, and the two year reigning queen of faceoff wins tallying a cumulative 495 successful draws. The season concluded with what seemed like deja-vu - a long awaited rematch of the first Isobel Cup showdown, resulting in a superhuman 60+ save goaltending performance and an Isobel Cup Championship for the relentless Buffalo Beauts.
From start to finish, the 2016-17 season gave fans a great deal to celebrate, but what does the future hold?
The NWHL is poised to begin its third year, dropping the puck for the 2017-18 preseason against international competitors, Team China and Team Russia, followed by a pair of regular season openers on the weekend of Oct. 28.
Each of the four founding franchises have been hard at work throughout the offseason, signing some impressive rising stars to complement their veteran talent. Additionally, with the hiatus of the members of the USWNT this season in preparation for this winter’s PyeongChang Olympics, these new additions will really get a chance to shine and get fans on their feet.
Season three will also see the league expanding its media coverage to reach a wider range of its fans featuring a Game of the Week streamed on Twitter. The Twitter streamed contests will include the Connecticut Whale’s October 15th preseason matchup with Team Russia, the Feb, 11 All-Star Game, and two neutral site competitions in Rochester and Pittsburgh.
October has arrived, and NWHL hockey is here. The ice is ready, so whether you’re sporting your new threads with the Pack, cheering on your Pod, flexing with Rosie or defending the crown, grab your tickets and your Dunkin