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Got Questions After the NWHL’s Expansion to Minnesota? Here Are Some Answers

By Jane Norton, 05/15/18, 12:00PM EDT

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With today’s giant step of the NWHL’s expansion to Minnesota, we know that the league’s fans have some additional questions. So in the interest of keeping our fans in the loop as much as possible, here are some extra details that came out of the announcement on Tuesday in Saint Paul.

How did the deal come together? How long was the NWHL working on it?

We’ve been friends with the Whitecaps since the launch of the NWHL. Our teams have played exhibition games against them. Minnesota was the place to be in our first stage of expansion. This place breathes hockey.

Talks on this deal started many months ago, and when we had our All-Star Weekend here, Whitecaps players were a part of it. We’ve been smiling ever since. We couldn’t wait to make this announcement! For anyone who loves women’s hockey, this is a very happy day.

Where will the Whitecaps play their games?

We have that almost finalized, but not enough to announce today. Certainly, we loved having our All-Star Weekend at TRIA Rink. When it’s all locked down, the league will announce.

When will the games be? What’s the playoff format?

The schedule will be released later this summer. We would expect most, if not all home games to be played on weekends. As for playoff format, we’re still five months before our first game of Season 4. We have opinions on that, but we’ll take some time with it and announce the format officially.

How many games will the teams now play?

As you know, last season our teams each played 16 regular season games – 8 home/8 road. We’ve begun work on the schedule, but nothing set in stone yet. We’re excited to announce the schedule later in the summer.

Will the Whitecaps players be paid?

Absolutely. They’re in the NWHL now! This is professional women’s hockey. Everyone knows our league, like most women’s leagues, have a long way to close to close the gap, but we were proud to be the first league in North America to pay its players.

How does the long-distance travel work out?

The Whitecaps will fly to their games, and their opponents will fly to Minnesota. In speaking with players on the other teams, they’re very excited to come to the State of Hockey to take on all of the great players from this region. The action and the quality of play in these games will be incredible. We will see an influx of elite talent.

Is the NWHL’s hope that the Whitecaps will be sold, as the Beauts were?

We would love to see all of our teams aligned with NHL or other pro team owners in their markets. Those things take time. We understand that people want to see what this league is all about, and we embrace that. We’re ecstatic to get Minnesota’s NWHL’s team up and running this season.

What does this mean for anyone looking for an eventual merger with the CWHL?

The NWHL agrees with everyone who says one league should be the goal in the near future. The NWHL expansion to Minnesota is a major, crucial step in that direction. Any women’s professional hockey league in North America would not be complete without a team from Minnesota. Our work is not done. We will continue to do everything in our power to advance the game. 

Have you spoken with the Wild?

Wild ownership and management have been great advisors and supporters of the NWHL and they were Incredible partners on our All-Star Weekend. The Wild have been first-class with us, as they have been with the Whitecaps over the years. In addition, Vikings Women – a community arm of the Minnesota Vikings – were a sponsor of the All-Star Weekend here in February. The Minnesota sports community has been wonderful to us.

When will the Whitecaps start to form their roster?

The signing period begins June 1 and some great players have already expressed interest to the club. We can’t wait to see what the Whitecaps’ lineup looks like!