The CWHL Board of Directors announced their plans to expand this week, targeting Chicago and St Paul, as well as select Canadian markets to join their five team league (currently consisting of teams in Calgary, Boston, Brampton, Montreal and Toronto).
The expansion task force, led by CWHL Alumnus and US Olympian Caitlin Cahow, recommended expanding to a location where there are already a large number of female hockey players not currently playing at the professional level. The task force pinpointed the Midwest as this potential source of hockey players, for example players who have recently graduated from the University of Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers hockey team (notable alumni/current players include: Gigi Marvin, Noora Räty, Amanda Kessel, Monique and Jocelyn Lamareoux). Räty retirement announcement in February 2014 made big news. Here at The Pink Puck, Mollyhall Seeley’s What Noora Räty’s Retirement Says About Women’s Hockey literally broke the site from the number of readers.
“Our strategic plan has always envisioned further expansion in to the US market, and we are pleased that the board has shown its support to move forward at this time,” said CWHL commissioner, Brenda Andress. “We will build from our success in the Boston area and enter in to talks with parties in Chicago and Minneapolis/St.Paul, as well as select Canadian markets. Until the CWHL, or any league, can pay players a living wage, it is incumbent on us to provide players with the opportunity to play in markets where they live, work and study.”
The CWHL has received unsolicited proposals from groups in many markets, but now, with its expansion criteria clearly defined, it will be asking potential partners to meet the league’s standards for expansion against a variety of metrics, like facilities, season ticket sales, alignment/partnership with local NHL franchise, sponsorship, and community engagement in grass roots female hockey.