With the governor of Minnesota in attendance, the National Women’s Hockey League announced on Tuesday afternoon that the NWHL was expanding to the state of Minnesota, acquiring the already-existing semi-pro Minnesota Whitecaps team that has formed in 2004.
You can read up on some of the details over at The Ice Garden who have had great coverage of the expansion. The Whitecaps have had themselves a pretty respectable recent history for a team without a league. They’ve managed to schedule games against NWHL teams, and even sent some players to the NWHL All-Star game. Several Olympic players for both USA and Canada opted to join the Whitecaps after PyeongChang, putting the team in a position of strength.
With the NWHL (and CWHL as well) as young leagues, the pay isn’t such that a player can decide to uproot their lives to join a team, particularly when the players have their off-ice careers to consider as well. With so many Minnesota-born players playing at the Olympic level, this gives the State Of Hockey a great opportunity to retain a lot of that high-end talent.
The Eagles have a history with the Whitecaps. As recently as last season (and hopefully this season as well), Minnesota native and BC ‘10 alumna Allie Thunstrom was a member of the team and one of the fastest skaters in the league — Allie nearly made it to the PyeongChang Olympics not with USA Hockey, but as a speed skater. Future Eagles from the state of Minnesota will have an opportunity to play pro hockey close to home as well.
It’s an exciting move for the NWHL, and hopefully it signals the continues steady growth of professional women’s hockey.