After a year and a half of running the National Women's Hockey League, I've experienced just about every emotion possible. There is no question that we have had some stumbles along the way, and as commissioner, I take responsibility for those.
But I want you to know this: although I admit to becoming hardened at times by the frustrating moments that the league and players have experienced, the hurdles and setbacks only motivate me more to play my part in taking this game where I've always envisioned it could be. We are a women's league and we are a start-up, but we not fragile. We are resilient and will continue to break barriers.
From time to time, I’m going to utilize this space to share some thoughts and updates directly with the public. So here are a few things on the agenda or on my mind…
The 2017 NWHL All-Star Game (Road Trip!): In the very near future, we will announce the host city for our 2017 All-Star Game that will push the NWHL's geographical borders to new limits. Since we launched back in April 2015, we have been contacted regularly by fans and sports business professionals asking when the NWHL will expand to their city. After conducting extensive market research on many fan suggestions and business pitches, we strategically selected a location for this season's All-Star Game that will not disappoint.
Growing our footprint will allow a new fan base to see these incredible women live, to see this brand of hockey live. They'll be able to watch Megan Bozek attempt to break her own hardest shot record (88 mph) and Kelley Steadman go for back-to-back MVPs. They'll be able to witness first-hand the skill, finesse and dedication to the game these elite players possess. Although I can’t say right now when the NWHL will expand, it was time to utilize our All-Star Game as a bridge to another great hockey market.
Transgender Athlete Policy: From the moment Harrison Browne stepped forward in our league two months ago, we have been asked about our transgender policy. We told the press that we wanted to take the necessary time to work with partners like the You Can Play Project and friends like the National Center for Lesbian Rights to devise a policy that shows our commitment to being an inclusive league and look to set new standards. The work is almost done, and I believe we’ll be able to announce it in the next two weeks, so stay tuned.
And can I add…how about that Brownie? At the game Saturday in Newark, he walked off the ice jubilantly after the Beauts’ win and didn’t even stop to drop his gear in the locker room or cool off. He went straight to the group of fans wearing apparel with his name on it to offer high-fives, hugs, autographs and photo ops. I am so proud of the way Brownie has shared his story in the press and with his own social media outlets. Harrison is an inspiration.
Yes, Virginia, They Really Do Play Home Games: Our pals, the assumed-to-be-homeless Connecticut Whale, actually play their home opener this Saturday in front of one of our four most passionate fan bases! (haha) Their new home at the Northford Ice Pavilion has twice as many seats as CTW's venue last year, giving the team an opportunity to break new attendance records. Best of luck to the Whale!
Since venue capacity has been a talking point lately, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our amazing partners at Warrior Ice Arena. It was an easy business decision to move to such an outstanding venue and align ourselves with pros. The Pride have sold out three of its four games at Warrior and there's no doubt #ThePack will continue to pack the house for remaining home games.
The Players: As Madison Packer told the press on Saturday, after two weeks of extensive individual and group conversations about the salary cuts, we have agreed to move forward and keep the dialogue confidential. All I will say is that the NWHL is a small, tight-knit family…a family that together will develop as a strong professional sports league and, yes, a business. As we did with Fritzy, we will always support a player’s decision to move on. The players are the lifeblood of our league, and we will do everything in our power to enhance their development as players, be there for them in any way possible and have a league that they can be proud of.
The Fans: Of course, we couldn't do any of this without you, the NWHL fans. Your commitment to the players, the teams and this league has not gone unnoticed. You've been some of our best ambassadors. We will continue to be resilient. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that there is a fan base for women's hockey and these players have earned a platform to shine.
Happy Holidays to everyone,
December 6, 2016