Photo by Matt Raney
With the Isobel Cup Playoffs taking place over the next two weeks, it got me thinking. In the wake of the incredible gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada, the spotlight on women’s hockey has become even brighter (thank you, Olympians!). As you see on social media, more and more people want to know about this great game and the people who play it.
Thankfully, many loyal fans and supporters, along with our much-appreciated advocates in the media, were happy to tell them about the NWHL and other women’s leagues around the world.
Still, if I was just getting into the NWHL after the Olympics, there’s a lot I’d want to know – starting with: who’s in the playoffs and how I can I watch these games? When and why did the NWHL even come to be? So I put together this primer of everything I could think of.
To the veteran fans of three NWHL seasons, we thank you. To the new ones, welcome. I hope this helps your enjoyment of the league and the game!
The Sprint to Isobel: There are just three playoff games this season. The single-game semifinals – you lose and you’re out – are this weekend:
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – No. 3 seed Boston Pride at Buffalo Beauts (2), at HarborCenter in Buffalo
Sunday, 7 p.m. – Connecticut Whale (4) at Metropolitan Riveters (1), at RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark
Tickets: Just $20 each…for a playoff game!
How Do I Get Them? Right now at www.NWHL.zone/playoffs
IF there are any remaining, you could pick some up at the arena on the day of the game.
The View: Every ticket for an NWHL game is general admission, and every seat is right on top of the action!
Fan Experience: Win or lose, there is an opportunity for fans to meet the home team after every NWHL game – including the playoffs! Our players sign autographs and pose for photos with all ticket-buyers, sealing a connection between athlete and fan.
Merchandise: An array of NWHL, team and player apparel and merchandise is available at NWHL.zone/shop and also at games.
Broadcast: Don’t tell anyone, but I’ll share this with all of you exclusively: all of the games will be available live on a free global stream on Twitter, thanks to the NWHL’s partnership with them.
What’s at Stake in the Semifinals: The winning teams advance to the grandmomma of them all…the Isobel Cup Final, the following weekend.
About That Cup: The Isobel Cup is named after the daughter of Lord Stanley (of Stanley Cup fame). In 2016, Boston won the league’s first Isobel Cup. Buffalo took home the title in 2017.
The NWHL’s Mission: Founded in 2015, the NWHL provides strong female role models and fuels the continued growth of the sport, brand and business of women’s hockey.
The Game: Women’s hockey is the second-fastest growing sport in the U.S. The NWHL is where players continue to develop after their collegiate careers and reach their full potential as professionals.
Teams: Boston Pride; Buffalo Beauts (owned and operated by Pegula Sports & Entertainment – owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres); Connecticut Whale; Metropolitan Riveters (strategically aligned with NHL's New Jersey Devils)
Venues: Three NHL facilities: Boston – Warrior Ice Arena (Bruins), capacity 800; Buffalo – HarborCenter (Sabres), capacity 1,800; Riveters – RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark (Devils), capacity 1,000; Connecticut – Terry Conners Rink in Stamford, capacity 1,500.
Players: Up to 25 per team, all college graduates. There are players from six different countries and 18 American states.
Olympians: Nine of the players in the lineup for Team USA in their Gold Medal Game triumph against Canada at the 2018 Olympics are NWHL players.
Careers: Almost every NWHL player has a career and/or is continuing their education. Our players are teachers, medical professionals, engineers, financial analysts, coaches and trainers, marketing and communications executives, entrepreneurs and so much more.
Player Compensation: Upon its founding, the NWHL was the first women’s hockey league in North America to pay its players. The league also shares revenue generated from apparel sales with the players.
Practices: To accommodate the players’ off-ice careers, practices are on weeknights.
Diversity: The league strives to be the embodiment of the Declaration of Principles created by the NHL in 2017 and signed by the NWHL. In 2016, Kelsey Koelzer of Princeton University became the first African American to be selected first overall in any draft of a professional hockey league.
Inclusion: Committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces, the NWHL and the You Can Play Project collaborated on a transgender participation policy that was heralded as a landmark for accelerating social progress. In 2016, Harrison Browne of the Buffalo Beauts became the first openly transgender player in North American professional team sports. (Brownie is on the Riveters this season).
NWHL All-Star Weekend: Over the last two years, the NWHL took its midseason showcase event to outer markets Pittsburgh and Minnesota, in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild. Both weekends grew the league’s footprint immeasurably. More than 500,000 viewers tuned in for the 2018 All-Star Game in Saint Paul. All-Star Weekend consists of three events: a youth clinic with the all-stars, the Skills Challenge and the All-Star Game. The league is considering invitations to host future weekends in other major markets.
How can you support the league? Sponsor us. Go to a game. Stream a game. Purchase some apparel. But most of all, enjoy the games, cherish these athletes, and tell your friends.
It’s Isobel Cup Playoff Time!