Is a Minnesota Based CWHL Team Nearing Reality?

Minnesota Golden Gophers watch Union College celebrate a National Championship victory. [photo: Josh Smith]
Minnesota Golden Gophers watch Union College celebrate a National Championship victory. [photo: Josh Smith]
In June of 2014 it was revealed that the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) was reviewing bids to expand the league to an even six teams. Groups from Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit and New York City are all believed to be in the bidding process with the CWHL for a new franchise.

Who is Laura Halldorson?

A key member of the bidding group from Minneapolis, Minnesota is longtime supporter of Women’s Hockey in the area Laura Halldorson. She played with Patty Kazmaier, forever immortalized with the Patty Kazmaier Award being given to the top female NCAA hockey player on a yearly basis, at the University of Princeton.

Laura Halldorson would then go on to coach the Minnesota Golden Gophers Women’s Hockey team from 1997 until 2007. She accumulated 337 wins, 142 losses and 31 ties placing her fifth all time behind Shannon Miller (348 wins), Michael Sisti (363 wins), Katey Stone (402 Wins) and Bill Mandigo (471 wins).

Even since her resigning from coaching in 2007 it seems that Laura Halldorson is forever linked to women’s hockey.

“I actually still work in the Athletic Department at the University of Minnesota.  I am part of the Annual Fund in the development office here.  I seem to find myself continuing to be involved with hockey in different ways, including some speaking, broadcasting, and time spent coaching on Team USA’s staff in 2012.”

Why the CWHL will work in Minnesota

Halldorson and the bidding group have tremendous belief in the State of Minnesota as the perfect landing place for the next CWHL franchise.

“Our group believes that Minnesota is the perfect place for the next CWHL team.  The state of Minnesota is at the forefront of girls’ and women’s hockey in the U.S. when it comes to youth, high school, and college programs; and we believe Minnesota has the players, the fans, and the media support to sustain a successful CWHL team in the Twin Cities.”

Parise and Suter minnesota hockey
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter both signed with the Wild last summer (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Their belief is shared by many influential powers within the hockey world and Minnesota. Similar to what we have seen in successful partnerships between the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames and the CWHL Calgary Inferno, as well as the Toronto Furies and the Toronto Maple Leafs. This Minnesota group appears to have a budding relationship with the Minnesota Wild.

“As part of our proposal, we submitted letters of support from the Minnesota Wild, USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, Minnesota Hockey, and the WCHA.  These organizations also believe that Minnesota is the right place for a CWHL expansion team.”

Money matters

At the time of the ESPN article this group had raised $200,000 towards the estimated $500,000 required for travel.

“Jack and Winny Brodt have raised $200,000 over the past couple of years through the non-profit Jack set up to run the Minnesota Whitecaps.  The Whitecaps have been around for 10 years, but have been without a league since 2011.”

The CWHL Commissioner, Brenda Andress, has set the bar high with her goal to be able to increase revenues from $1.2 million to $3.2 million in the next eighteen months. This would allow the league to pay its players $15,000 per season making it truly the first professional Women’s Hockey League in North America. A second franchise in the United States with support from the organizations indicated above would go a long way towards reaching that goal.

Current status of the bid

With the season fast approaching and the CWHL Draft set to proceed in August, the CWHL is quickly running out of time to bring on a new franchise for the coming season. Currently the Minnesota bidding group that Laura Halldorson is a part of is waiting to hear back from the CWHL.

“As of right now, we are awaiting initial feedback from Commissioner Brenda Andress and the executive committee.  We hope to hear something soon, especially since we have another meeting scheduled with the Minnesota Wild on July 31st.”

Maryanne Menefee, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Eric Miller/Gopher Athletics)

With no official green light from the CWHL the bidding group is prudently waiting to continue its fundraising and sponsorship efforts. There are two reasons for this.

“We don’t want to move forward with any formal sponsorship packages or donation benefit plans until we have the league’s direction and approval on the content of those things.“

The second reason is also quite clear.

“We also feel that it would not be wise to meet with organizations without some form of commitment from the CWHL.  If the league decides to expand to Minnesota, we would look forward to partnering with it in soliciting additional donations and corporate sponsorships.”

Can the Minnesota Whitecaps be ready to compete this fall?

With the bid currently in a holding pattern and the CWHL Draft approaching quickly in August and the drop of the puck occurring in and around October is this Minnesota group prepared to move quickly to lock down all the details?

Former UND forward Monique Lamoureux (Eric Classen/UND Athletcs)
Former UND forward Monique Lamoureux, sister of Jocelyne (Eric Classen/UND Athletcs)

“Our proposal also provided detailed updates in the areas of game and practice locations, coach and general manager recommendations, interested players (including 2014 U.S. Olympians Brianna Decker and Jocelyne Lamoureux), and a list of local companies we have identified for possible corporate sponsorships.”

It is clear that Laura Halldorson and the rest of the Minnesota bidding group has done all they can to prepare for entry into the CWHL. There is even interest of star U.S. Olympians to play on the team. This would open up another talent pool for the CWHL in the mid-western United States and another potentially solid franchise in the long term.

Dreams becoming reality

It appears that the CWHL and its current franchises including the Boston Blades, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno, Montreal Stars and Toronto Furies could very well be competing against a new addition of the Minnesota Whitecaps in the 2014-15 CWHL season.

USA Women's Hockey Locker Room (Ben Kogut)
USA Women’s Hockey Locker Room (Ben Kogut)

There are still many things that need to occur between now and October for this to become a reality. The biggest hurdle will be getting approval from the CWHL Executive to proceed with the expansion to Minnesota.

There is reason to be excited if you are a Women’s Hockey fan or player from the Minnesota area. The Minnesota Whitecaps were the first American team to win the Clarkson Cup when they competed in the Western Women’s Hockey League in 2010. Fans in Minnesota could very well see another Clarkson Cup victory in the near future.