NWHL Expands To Toronto

NWHL Expands To Toronto
April 22, 2020

It’s been rumored for weeks now, and on Wednesday it finally became a reality. The NWHL is on its way to Canada. The league officially announced an expansion team in Toronto that will begin play this fall.

Johanna Neilson Boynton, CEO and co-Founder of Boynton Brennan Builders, will lead the private ownership group. She is joined by Ty Tumminia, one of the Top 25 Female Executives according to Bleacher Report. She also received the Game Changer award from Sports Business Journal. She’ll serve as the club’s Chairman, per the official release.

Digit Murphy also will be a key figure for the expansion franchise. She was named the club’s President, and also will oversee the hiring of the General Manager and Head Coach. She has ample experience in this area, as Murphy previously led teams at Brown (NCAA) and in the CWHL.

That wasn’t all. Toronto’s NWHL club also signed the first five players in franchise history. They were included in the official announcement.

Kristen Barbara, Elaine Chuli, Shiann Darkangelo, Emma Greco and Taylor Woods will suit up for the team this season.

Barbara is a 27-year-old defender who played in the CWHL with the Markham Thunder. Chuli, 25, played goaltender for both the Toronto Furies and the Vanke Rays of the CWHL. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

Darkangelo, a US National Team member, played for Toronto and Kunlun of the CWHL. The forward won a gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Championship with Team USA.

Greco (defense) and Woods (forward) also both played in the CWHL. Greco has prior NWHL experience, having played for the Connecticut Whale during the 2017-18 season.

“We welcome Kristen, Elaine, Shiann, Emma and Taylor – five talented and highly driven players who will help our team contend for the Isobel Cup while advancing women’s professional hockey in the inclusive and incredible city of Toronto,” Murphy said in the above linked release. “I’m very proud that these five outstanding leaders, who all are connected to the Toronto community, have joined our roster.”

Thoughts

Anytime a professional women’s hockey team pops up, it’s good news. The fact of the matter is, this will result in more paying jobs for women’s hockey players. Regardless of which side of the PWHPA/NWHL war you fall on, this is good news. The city of Toronto has proven, time after time, that they can and will support women’s hockey.

It’s also noteworthy that the three biggest figures in this organization are women. It might not seem like a big deal on the face, but it actually is.

There aren’t enough women in managerial and coaching roles throughout the sport. Murphy helps move things in the right direction with her new role in Toronto. For me, that’s a huge deal.

I also think it is vitally important that professional women’s hockey makes a return to Canada. After a season off due to the CWHL folding, it was time for the NWHL to make their mark north of the border. If this venture into Toronto is successful, it could open the door for further expansion.

Montreal makes a ton of sense, as does the Markham/Brampton market. The CWHL had success in both of those areas.

There are some questions to be asked here. There was no name or logo announced, but that isn’t uncommon. The NHL did the same thing when they expanded to Vegas and most recently Seattle. Sure, we’d all love to see a name, logo and color scheme. That said, this could bring more fan engagement and I think that is a good thing

The only real concern here is the arena situation. It seems bizarre to me that a professional hockey team can be announced with no arena. This isn’t a new thing with women’s hockey in Toronto either. Remember, at the start of 2020 the PWHPA held a showcase in the city, and some of the games had no time or venue listed. It was a bad look then, and I’d argue it is now too. It’s my only real concern at this time.

If I had to bet, the team will end up playing at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. For older hockey fans, that is the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

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