The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) is set to hit the ice this fall, October 11 to be exact, as the new women’s hockey league will play its inaugural season. For now, the NWHL has four teams, as probably already know; the New York Riveters, the Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts, and the Connecticut Whale.
The NWHL is a breakthrough for women’s hockey, particularly in the United States, where it will look to become the premier women’s hockey league in the nation (and maybe, some day, beyond). However, with just four teams, the NWHL is undoubtedly going to look to expand as soon as it can support more teams.
That begs the question: Where should the league expand next? We’ve selected a few areas where the NWHL should look to expand to when the time is right.
Minnesota is known as a hockey state, which is perfectly sound reasoning for placing an expansion team there. However, there are several reasons that the NWHL could survive in Minnesota. First of all, each of the four existing teams are located in the Northeast United States (makes sense, as you aren’t going to start a league in an area where hockey isn’t traditional, like Las Vegas, for example… that would be crazy!). That being said, players from, well, anywhere outside of New England or New York will have to move quite a distance to play for their new teams. A team in Minnesota could draw in mid-western players.
And that brings us to our second point, the number of players. Minnesota, a hockey-rich state, could certainly draw in both a crowd, and more female players. Four players from the University of Minnesota were selected in the NWHL’s inaugural draft, for example. It only makes sense to put a team in Minnesota, where the league is already drawing from the talent pool.
If you’re going to head into Canada, why not start in Toronto? The NWHL, like the NHL, will probably want to move into Canada, where it could place several expansion teams. Of course, this will mean that the NWHL will have to challenge the CWHL. That being said, if the NWHL lives up to it’s lofty expectations, then a move into Canada might be inevitable.
Where’s the most logical place to start in Canada? Toronto. For one, the city is crazy about it’s hockey. I mean crazy. It’s certainly not a long-shot to see a women’s hockey team not only surviving, but thriving there. (And let’s be honest, Toronto needs a winning hockey team!).
Geographically, the location makes plenty of sense. For a young league, the NWHL will certainly look to keep it’s teams close together, so as to cut down on travel costs (hence the bunching in New England and New York for it’s “Original Four”). On top of that, Buffalo is a short ways from Toronto, so the two could commute easily, and maybe even start up a cross-border rivalry (pick your sides!).
When it comes to Canada, Montreal is the next logical spot to consider placing a team. With an Original Six NHL team, Montreal has a long and cherished history when it comes to professional hockey. It makes total sense for the NWHL to try to carve it’s name in there as well. Plus, Montreal is pretty well located with respect to the rest of the league.
If the NWHL wants to keep to the Northeast, a short trip down the Mid-Atlantic may be the way to go. By placing a team in Pennsylvania, the NWHL could draw upon fans that have consumed themselves in the mixed success of the Penguins and Flyers. However, the NWHL may not be willing to make the leap into both cities, which means that the two would have to battle it out to prove who wants it more. Philadelphia is located closer to Connecticut and New York, but Pittsburgh is certainly not out of the question.
While Chicago breaks the geographical rule (like Minnesota), it’s certainly a spot that the NWHL will want to keep it’s eye on down the road. With the Blackhawks becoming a modern-day dynasty, hockey is becoming more and more important to the “Windy City”. Plus, like Minnesota, Chicago would provide mid-western players with a team closer to home. (Hey, maybe the Hawks will share their championship ways with a hometown women’s team).
If you want to capture the attention of the nation, what better place to start than the capital? Location wise, D.C. isn’t outrageous. Plus, gaining the support of the nation’s capital could do good things for the NWHL (put a jersey on the President’s back, and there’s some great advertising).
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!