Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
My colleague Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up-to-date on Buffalo and Boston’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and the Riveters. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
On May 22 the Connecticut Whale announced their first signing for the upcoming season, coming to terms with defender Shannon Doyle who has been with the team since its inception. Doyle becomes the third of the first four NWHL signings (joining Kaleigh Fratkin and Madison Packer) that have played in every season since the league began in October of 2015.
The 27-year-old has played all 61 of her games with the Whale and has 25 career points (5g-20a) in addition to a countless amount of blocked shots. Doyle set a career high with eight points (3g-5a) this past season while logging heavy minutes and she was named an NWHL All-Star for the first time.
Prior to joining the NWHL, Doyle (from Baldwin, Ontario) split her collegiate career between Colgate University and Boston University, and she won a gold medal with Canada’s U18 team in 2010.
“We are very excited to have Shannon Doyle back for a fifth season with the Connecticut Whale,” newly named GM Bray Ketchum said in a press release from the league. “She is a leader on this team and one of our top defenders. Her passion for the game is always evident and I know she is going to continue to be a role model on and off the ice.”
With so much uncertainty around the game of women’s hockey and over 200 players planning to not play in any league, Doyle felt it was important enough to continue to grow the NWHL by playing in it rather than letting it burn down and try to start another league from ground zero.
“We have the opportunity to be a part of the one united league that can showcase talented hockey players for a 24-game season,” Doyle said in the press release announcing her signing. “I look forward to making even more positive strides in Season 5 of the NWHL and keeping the positive momentum going.”
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Doyle took to social media two days ago to post a very poignant and well thought out post that offered her perspective on what is currently going on in the climate of women’s hockey. Like the Packer signing with the Riveters two days earlier, it will be intriguing to see which players follow the lead of a player who has been involved with the franchise in Connecticut from day one.
The Whale roster has undergone many makeovers over the previous four seasons, but one constant has been Doyle who has been often looked to for leadership on and off the ice with so many faces coming and going. “I’m proud and honored to represent the Connecticut Whale for a fifth season,” said Doyle, who is an English teacher when she isn’t lacing up her ice skates.
“Connecticut is home to numerous female youth hockey programs, and I am very excited to work with them this season and to continue being a role model in such a hockey-loving state.”
In four seasons there have been four different champions hoisting the Isobel Cup at the end of the season and what a story it would be if Doyle found a way to help the Whale make it five in five seasons. This may be the season where Connecticut has the most returning players and they could have an advantage in a league that no one knows what it will look like.