Gold Medalist Brandt Joins NWHL, Whitecaps

Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can sign players. 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. Players who were not drafted by an NWHL team, or who have previously played in a different league, in Europe or otherwise, are free agents and may sign with any team that offers them a contract.

The fourth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Metropolitan Riveters defend their Isobel Cup championship, and with the addition of a fifth team – the Minnesota Whitecaps – this will be the most competitive season yet. My colleague Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up-to-date on Boston and Buffalo’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and the Riveters. Together we will collaborate to keep readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.

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The Whitecaps made another splash into NWHL Free Agency on June 20 when they added a gold medalist from the 2018 USWNT, and third former University of Minnesota player in Hannah Brandt. The former Golden Gopher was the second overall selection in the inaugural NWHL Draft by the Connecticut Whale in 2015 and in 2016 her rights were traded to the Riveters for Dana Trivigno.

The 24-year-old from Maplewood, Minnesota was dominant at the NCAA level with a ridonkulous 285 points (115g-170a) over her 158 games with the Gophers and helped them win three championships; her point and assist totals are both the best in program history. Following the end of her collegiate career she was a member of the Whitecaps (2016-17) when they were an independent team before leaving to prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympics and now she returns home to play for the newest NWHL team alongside two former Gophers teammates in Amanda Leveille and Lee Stecklein (who also signed on June 20).

Hannah Brandt, Lee Stecklein
University of Minnesota co-captains Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein lift the National Championship trophy in 2016. (Photo: Eric Miller/Gopher Athletics)

Brandt also returns home with an Olympic gold medal around her neck (like Stecklein) and knows that this upcoming season is vital for women’s hockey. “This is going to be a huge year for women’s hockey,” Brandt told the Star-Tribune. “It’s important to capitalize on the audience we gained with the gold medal and give those fans something they can watch. This is another chance for us to grow the game.”

With Brandt and Stecklein joining the NWHL there will now be at least five members of the USWNT in the league for the upcoming season. They join Amanda Kessel (Riveters), Nicole Hensley (Beauts), and Dani Cameranesi (Beauts) who signed earlier this month.

“This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the Whitecaps’ inaugural season in the NWHL. It’s already an incredible organization and hopefully we can take it to another level,” Brandt said in the league’s press release announcing the signing. “Women’s hockey in Minnesota gets bigger every year, and I look forward to seeing the impact a women’s professional team will have. I hope to see many young girls in the stands who dream of playing pro hockey. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to inspire future generations of players.”