On Saturday, the puck will drop on the 2019-20 NWHL season with the Buffalo Beauts taking on the Connecticut Whale. Ahead of the season opener, the league has continued to announce new partnerships and details surrounding the season.
NWHL’s broadcasting agreement was announced last month with the league tapping Amazon-owned Twitch to stream every game for the upcoming season and at least two seasons following that. Following up on that news, on Wednesday the league announced that The Goalie Guild and hockey writer Cat Silverman would be providing analysis for a few games on the Twitch stream. The commentary will focus on goaltending with the league also teasing a weekly goalie-centric show as well.
For those not familiar with The Goalie Guild, it is a non-profit based out of Colorado with the mission to support both goalies and goalie coaches around the world. The NWHL has partnered with the non-profit before with an annual training scholarship handed out since 2016 to allow a U.S.-based goalie to attend the NWSL summer camp.
Cooke Once Again Leads Player Safety Committee
On the player safety side of things, the NWHL has brought back Kelly Cooke to lead their Player Safety Committee for the 2019-20 season. Cooke will be part of a six-person committee that has the power to both suspend and issue warnings to players. Cooke has been in the role for the past three seasons and recently was apart of history.
Last month Cooke was apart of a four-person female officiating group that refereed the Nashville Predators Prospect Showcase, the first females to officiate an NHL prospect game.
NWHL Taps Firm to Help Improve Fan Experience
Also announced on Wednesday was a rather interesting partnership with Girsch Sports being brought in to help the NWHL enhance their fan experience. The partnership between the two sides has been underway for a few weeks at this point and their focus is to improve the in-game presentation, technology, and overall sponsorships.
Per the league, they will assist in not only a league-level capacity, but for all of the five teams. Girsch does have some familiarity with hockey with both the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues of the NHL being clients.
Former NHLers Colton Orr and Tom Laidlaw are also listed as Girsch Sports clients. The founder of the company also has ties to hockey — Bryan Girsch worked in communications for the Florida Panthers in the early 2000s.
New Look Threads
In addition to the behind-the-scenes fan improvements through Girsch Sports, the NWHL teams are looking to be more visually appealing on the ice as well. Two franchises announced new jerseys ahead of the 2019-20 season with the Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters coming out with new gear.
A lot has changed since the last league season ended. For the first time in the league’s four years, it doesn’t have to compete with the CWHL which folded earlier this year. But the threat of competition still looms with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and their roughly 500 members sitting out of league hockey in the United States this season.
This will be the fifth season for a league that has started to accelerate growth with new partnerships and successes through expansion franchises. New money has also come into the league this offseason and that could poise more to flow in as well in the future. Certainly still a league on the brink of failure/success, this season could determine whether or not it can succeed in the long-term.
Tanner covers the business of hockey of The Hockey Writers in addition to running his own New England sports website, Trifecta Sports.