Thirty women’s college hockey players found new homes Tuesday night during the 2021 NWHL Draft.

The six NWHL teams made their selections over a total of five rounds. And for the first time in league history, fans could watch the process live on Twitch.

The Connecticut Whale, selecting first overall for the first time ever, took forward Taylor Girard from Quinnipiac University.

The Buffalo Beauts selected defender Emilie Harley second overall, making her the first of a draft-high three players taken from Robert Morris University. A few weeks ago, the school announced it was cancelling its hockey programs.

Toronto had eight total selections, including three consecutive picks in the first round, the most of any team. Buffalo followed with seven while Minnesota had five, Connecticut and Metropolitan had four apiece and Boston had two. Of the 30 players selected, 16 are forwards, 13 are defenders and one is a goaltender. They hail from a total of 24 different college programs.

Special guests announced each selection Tuesday night, including Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng, Gotham FC GM Alyse LaHue and NHL defenseman P.K. Subban.

The NWHL’s international draft is set to take place July 25.

The NWHL continues to expand its reach.

After announcing that they would be doubling the league salary cap, the NWHL announced today that they will be holding the first-ever NWHL International Draft that will debut on Sunday, July 25. 

The event will be a single round, featuring all six teams, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. 

“The NWHL International Draft will help strengthen league talent and competitiveness while growing professional women’s hockey beyond our North American borders,” said Lisa Haley, the NWHL’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, in a release. “This is an event we hope develops over time with unique interest and exposure of our brand overseas and another opportunity to generate excitement for our fans.”

In order to be eligible for the draft, players must have been born outside of North America, at least 21 years of age on or before September 1, 2021, and have not previously played in the NWHL or used up any eligibility at the NCAA or U SPORTS level.

Half of the National Women’s Hockey League’s teams are now privately owned. 

In approving the sale of the Connecticut Whale to Shared Hockey Enterprises, a group of investors led by Tobin Kelly, the league is well on its way to accomplishing its goals. The move follows the NWHL’s announcement that the league’s salary cap will be doubled for the upcoming season.

“It has been our goal since transitioning to a joint venture model in October to find strong ownership groups who believe in the NWHL and recognize the growth potential for the league and professional women’s hockey,” said NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia. “Tobin’s commitment to supporting our athletes, building community partnerships, and enhancing the fan experience represents another significant milestone in league history as we prepare for our seventh season.”

Kelly, a Needham, Massachusetts native, has strong ties to the hockey community. He is the founder of Arc Hockey, an equipment and apparel company, and established the Youth Pond Hockey Festival, the largest outdoor youth tournament in the United States. 

Kelly has also coached girls and women at the youth and high school levels. 

“All of us who have established SHE are excited to continue the amazing growth made by the NWHL and to fulfill the NWHL’s goal of providing the opportunity for elite women athletes to earn a living wage playing the sport they love,” said Kelly. “Finalizing the purchase of the Whale with my co-investors is the culmination of a dream that I have held for decades. I am excited to get to work with the Whale players and staff to continue their great work and bring new resources to growing the Whale’s presence in Connecticut.”

One of the four founding teams to play in the NWHL’s inaugural 2015-16 season, the Whales advanced to the Isobel Cup Playoffs in the COVID-shortened 2021 season, where they lost to the Minnesota Whitecaps in the semis. 

The National Women’s Hockey League announced on Wednesday a significant increase to team salary caps.

All six NWHL teams’ salary thresholds will double from $150,000 to $300,000 for the 2021-22 season.

The move indicates the league’s commitment to increased investment and its vision for financial growth. NWSL commissioner Tyler Tumminia cites sponsorship deals, like the one inked with Discover, as signs of that progress.

Salary increases come on the heels of a season complicated by COVID-19. The NWHL was forced to suspend its 2021 season in Lake Placid, N.Y. in early February after multiple players tested positive for the virus and teams opted out over COVID-19 concerns.

Despite the shortened schedule and disruptions, the NWHL’s Isobel Cup (which resumed on March 26) still saw a dramatic increase in ratings, drawing over 100,000 viewers on NBCSN.

Moving into its seventh season, the NWHL hopes pay increases will help draw and retain top talent, further advancing women’s professional hockey in the United States.

In the end, there were no miracles on the ice this go-around in Lake Placid, as the NWHL was forced to suspend its season one day before the Isobel Cup semifinals were set to begin. Derailed by a multi-team COVID outbreak, the league was set to make history by airing women’s hockey games on a major cable network for the first time. Instead, everyone went home.

Not only was the announcement a disappointment for fans and players, but the available reporting now tells the story of a league that potentially cut corners in preparation for taking on this challenge, putting both teams and the community at risk.



While it’s fair to have thought that the NWHL could pull off a two-week tournament based on the success of other bubble situations (including the NHL), the safety measures in Lake Placid fell quite short of the mark, and a deeper look into the protocols the NWHL followed shows that the procedures put in place did not create a sealed bubble.

Before entering the environment, it is not clear that players and staff were required to quarantine, which meant that even though they had to test negative within 72-hours of leaving for the tournament and were tested again once they arrived, they were vulnerable to bringing in the virus undetected. This risk was further compounded as the games began before athletes were re-tested.

Though commissioner Tyler Tumminia shared during her press conference on February 3rd that PCR and rapid tests were administered “pretty much daily,” that fact, if true, wouldn’t reverse the potential initial exposure from the lack of pre-travel quarantine.

The Athletic has likewise reported that teams potentially stayed in hotels that were open to the public, brought in new players after the tournament bagan (to replace those with COVID), and shared staff among squads. The New York Times has reported that TikTok videos appear to show players hanging out together outside of their rooms while not competing, a violation of NWHL protocols.

A spokesperson for the league previously noted that fines would potentially be levied for breaking protocols. Meanwhile, a team’s official Instagram account showed players out and about in Lake Placid together.

You only have to follow the league’s changes in vocabulary to get a sense as to how the season unfolded. At the start, it was called a “bubble.” The league then started calling their set up a “modified bubble.” By the end, Tumminia was referring to it as a “restricted access environment.” Which brings us to the next big issue.



All leagues operating within bubble environments have had to contend with HIPAA requirements that protect the identities of those who test positive for COVID-19. That said, the NWHL did little to communicate just how many cases it had, only characterizing players as “unavailable” when they could not play, further fueling speculation and confusion.

The canary in the coal mine arrived when the Riveters were forced to pull out of the tournament on January 28th after passing the allowed threshold of positive cases. When the Connecticut Whale mysteriously withdrew from competition days later on February 1st, it triggered sirens that all was not well in Lake Placid.

The NWHL did not share the extent of the spread in real time — a highly questionable decision when public knowledge about community activity and contact tracing are key to controlling the virus. The league also declined to explain why the Whale were leaving, saying they’d leave it up to the team to speak. Days passed before the Whale broke their silence. For a moment, it looked like their departure might have been left a complete mystery.

As of last week, we now know that six members of the Boston Pride, including coach Paul Mara have also tested positive, with Mara telling The Boston Globe, “If I could take on all the symptoms our organization feels myself, I would… I feel terrible for them. They don’t deserve this.”

Connecticut Whale coach Colton Orr likewise told the New York Times that about two-thirds of his players tested positive.

Regarding the opaque communication surrounding player availability and the number of cases, Tumminia stated, “The reason we chose to say ‘unavailable’ was mostly because of HIPAA policies and rules. That was a defined league policy going into it. I am not allowed to tell you who has COVID. Also, the amount of numbers right now is also something that the league has taken a stance that we weren’t going to talk about. There’s varying degrees of privacy levels and HIPAA levels, and we had agreed with ORDA that we would not disclose that information.”

Protecting players’ rights is one thing. Leaving everyone in the dark is something else entirely.



The NWHL needed to do more than just seal their bubble. Compared to other sports, the league needed to be far more scrupulous in its preparation given the inherent risks posed by the nature of hockey itself.

As epidemiologist Theresa Chapple-McGruder told the New York Times, hockey brings an increased risk of COVID transmission compared to other sports: “You’re indoors in a cold environment, so the virus is going to live longer in the cold, and then all the heavy breathing, close contact — it’s just exactly what you need to spread the virus,” she explained  “It’s similar to what we saw in the meatpacking industry, because cold helps the virus survive. Hockey is no baseball.”

Now, the dangers posed by the league’s safety shortcomings have not only impacted players, coaches, staff, and the surrounding community, but they could also affect the NWHL’s positive momentum. This year, the league took major steps forward in terms of expansion, securing majors sponsors (Discover and Dick’s Sporting Goods), and locking in broadcast deals. Those were all serious accomplishments which now run the risk of being overshadowed by the league’s inability to safely stage a two week season.



As for the hockey that was played, the Toronto Six showed everyone what happens when you combine the prowess of Shiann Darkangelo, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Brooke Boquist, Breanne Wilson-Bennett, Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout, and Emma Woods. Throughout the series, the Six exhibited a dominant offense and a team with solid puck possession. In the end, the NWHL’s newest team walloped their opponents statistically, outshooting the rest with a 15.83 SOG/GP. Though the Metropolitan Riveters snagged a win against them, Toronto’s showing in Lake Placid proved they are a team with incredible strength and clear staying power.

Boston and Buffalo were initially battling it out for a playoff berth before the Whale withdrew from competition. Entering the season as major underdogs, the Beauts showed up to play in Lake Placid, beating the Pride in their first meeting. The Boston squad then found their footing, answering the Beauts with a 6-0 win in their second match up before snagging another win in the third game against Buffalo.

Minnesota skated away from Lake Placid as the still-reigning Isobel Cup champs, having won the last title game staged in 2019. (The 2020 Championship game was cancelled due to COVID.) The Whitecaps ended the season with all of their players still available for games, which gave them a depth advantage throughout the tournament.

Though Connecticut didn’t get the chance to challenge the reigning champs, they held their own throughout the competition while putting up a valiant effort against powerhouse teams like Toronto. The Whale ended their tournament early with players Tori Howran, Kayla Friesen, and Brooke Wolejko all listed as “unavailable.”

While they were the first team forced to leave the tournament due to COVID exposure, before their season was cut short, the Riveters held the Whitecaps to a single score in what would be New York’s last game and only loss. The addition of Kelly Babstock alongside Rebecca Russo gave the team far more offensive heft than they had for the 2019-20 season.

At this juncture, the season is technically suspended, not cancelled, though it’s unclear how, if, or when it will conclude. As Tumminia noted in her presser, “I have not yet defined what that raising of the Cup is going to look like. I can assure you, we definitely will try to define an ending to season six, and not let it be a cliffhanger.”



Looking back on the season, there are many unanswered questions that the league will be forced to reckon with. No one can control a pandemic, but it’s clear that the NWHL’s operations were not as tight as they needed to be, and the league’s less-than-transparent communication only made the situation worse.

But lost in the ongoing conversation about COVID is one about another issue plaguing the NWHL—racism. While the league has released statements regarding its entanglement with Barstool Sports, it has yet to issue a statement unequivocally supporting Saroya Tinker, whom Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy suggested should be jailed for her criticism of the website.

The Barstool controversy has created collisions between current players, former players, and staff taking opposing sides, threatening the well-being of players and the cohesiveness of the league. Clearly, leadership will be needed to mend the cracks. While the NWHLPA released a fairly poignant note on February 1 regarding the anti-racism work it plans to implement, the league’s surface level tweet about Black History month relied on a hashtag to make its strongest statement. It’s clear that the NWHL’s leadership has significant work to do when it comes to supporting its Black players, enacting meaningful change, and fomenting productive conversations.



The good news for the NWHL is that it now has a real opportunity to prove that it’s ready for the big leagues. The full story of the 2021 season won’t be written until the next season begins, when the league will have a chance to prove that it’s learned from it’s “bubble” experience.

The blueprint for success is there, and with over a million viewers tuning in to the league’s Twitch channel this past season, as well as the continued support of their sponsors, the league has the pieces it needs. Now it needs to step forward and show that it’s ready for the spotlight.

After cancelling their 2020 championship game and going 11 months without play, the NWHL has battled back to host a two-week, rapid-fire season at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York.

It may have felt like solving a Rubik’s Cube missing some of its stickers, but interim league commissioner Tyler Tumminia managed to pull together the logistics necessary to schedule a season and bring six teams together into a COVID-19 compliant bubble environment, all while managing to secure broadcast rights for the semifinals and Isobel Cup championship game, which will air live on NBCSN. This will be the first time a major cable network in the U.S. has aired women’s professional hockey.

Tumminia told the network, “It’s a huge learning curve,” but it’s one she appears to be surmounting quite well.



The league experienced its first major setback on Thursday, January 28th, when the Metropolitan Riveters were forced to withdraw from the tournament in compliance with COVID-19 protocols after a number of players tested positive for the virus.

It’s a disappointing end to the Riveters’ season. Led by captain Madison Packer, the league’s fourth highest scorer a year ago, the team’s one week on the ice was less than they’d hoped for but thrilling nonetheless. Key roster changes, paired with their physical style of play, had them ranked third in the standings following wins over Toronto and Connecticut.

Outside the COVID scare, the league has also been dealing with the fallout from an ongoing internet fued between Barstool CEO Erika Nardini and friends of the league. Nardini has been an outspoken supporter of the NWHL, while fans and journalists inside the space have called for the league to disown the connection, leading the league to issue a statement after Nardini attacked her “haters” in an online video.


Heading into the tournament, analysts predicted The Boston Pride would take home the Cup, having closed out last season with a 23-1-0 record before their chance to unseat the Minnesota Whitecaps in the championship game was cancelled due to the pandemic. The power-packed team has remained largely intact, with depth on every line and unfinished business driving their determination. That said, in sports as in life, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. The Pride currently sit at No. 5 after an unlikely loss to lower ranked Connecticut on Wednesday night.

While the Whitecaps, the reigning champions from the midwest, will predictably put up a good fight (currently 3-0 and the only unbeaten team in the bubble), the verdict is still out on how the league’s newest team, the Toronto Six, will fare.

On Tuesday, January 26, fans saw a preview of what this team can produce when they beat the Pride 2-1, securing the franchise’s first win, with goals from Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Brooke Boquist in the third period helping them pull ahead of Boston. With hockey legend Digit Murphy leading the charge, the team is certainly making a name for themselves, especially after backing up their fist win with another over Buffalo.


The Cinderella story of the tournament is likely to be the Connecticut Whale. A perennial underdog, this season is giving Connecticut the chance to continue developing their core while integrating new players added in the offseason.

The changes are certainly paying off, as the Whale undercut the Pride this week, beating Boston for the first time since 2018. Though the Pride were without their captain, Jillian Dempsey, who had to sit out the game due to an undiagnosed injury sustained in Tuesday’s game, the Whale’s Emma Vlasic proved her prowess as an impact player, assisting in the team’s first three goals before scoring one of her own.

Connecticut faces off against the Minnesota Whitecaps tonight, Thursday, January 28. If the Whale can topple the Whitecaps, the Isobel Cup is firmly in their reach.

At the bottom of the current standings are the Buffalo Beauts, playing with little to lose at this point. Their top two scorers from a season ago, Corinne Buie and Taylor Accursi, are gone, leaving them to rely on less familiar faces. Luckily, that includes rookie Autumn MacDougall, who nearly netted a hat trick against Toronto during Wednesday night’s game.


Lake Placid bears witness not only to the first women’s hockey bubble season, but also the debut of the Toronto Six, the newest NWHL expansion team and the second team to join the league’s growing cadre in its seven year history.

The Toronto Six follows the addition of the Minnesota Whitecaps, who joined the league during the 2018-2019 season, increasing the “Founding Four” franchises to Toronto’s eponymous six. As a bonus, addition of Toronto also creates the opportunity for a regional rivalry, giving the Buffalo Beauts a neighbor to the north to contend with.

Growth is always a good sign, but for the NWHL, moving into Canada, especially into Ontario, where the Toronto Maples Leafs boast a $1.5 billion valuation, is more than merely expanding internationally. It’s an opportunity with huge upside under the right management. Entering the GTA brings exposure to a market with a strong hockey fan base, but also one that has lost three CWHL teams in the past. The potential is there to grab hockey-loving hearts, but the Six will have to deftly avoid the management issues that befell previous leagues and teams.

Unlike previous groups, the NWHL is hoping to leverage a business model based around individual ownership for all six of its teams (Boston and Toronto are currently the only teams that are privately owned).

In April, Toronto franchise president (and current head coach) Digit Murphy told The Ice Garden: “I really like this next generation with the franchise model they’ve brought in,” adding, “when you start having franchise owners, they have a vested interest. It’s easier than the league owning it, because it’s tough having a league own all those teams in all those markets.”



Though professional women’s hockey has quite a few hurdles to clear as athletes and managers work to make it a viable professional sport (as it rightfully should be), the NWHL’s successful expansion in Canada, ongoing whubble experience, and growing mainstream media coverage are all things to applaud and reasons to be hopeful.

The NWHL Isobel Cup Semifinals will air live on NBCSN on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The network will air the NWHL Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET, with live coverage also streaming exclusively on and the NBC Sports app.

You can also catch regular season games on the league’s Twitch channel.