It ought to come as no shock that the primary free-agency interval for the brand new Skilled Girls’s Hockey League noticed the signings divided largely by nationwide strains.
Whether or not it’s on the Olympics or the world championships, the rivalry between america and Canada is without doubt one of the fiercest in sports activities — particularly as a result of there’s no clear-cut No. 1.
Because the pandemic pause, Canada held the sting with wins on the 2021 and 2022 world championships and on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. However Staff USA got here again to seize gold on Canadian soil on the 2023 Worlds in Brampton, ON final April, scoring 4 unanswered objectives within the third interval for a 6-3 win.
In the course of the 2022-23 season, gamers from either side of the forty ninth parallel co-existed as teammates throughout the PWHPA’s Dream Hole Tour. Gamers have been divided into 4 groups for a 20-game barnstorming occasion which touched down in 9 areas stretching from Nova Scotia to California.
Possibly, as soon as the rosters of the PWHL’s six groups are totally populated, we’ll additionally see some integration — in addition to some gamers from Europe and from the the PHF, which was bought by the PWHL in an effort to lastly make the aim of getting one skilled girls’s hockey league a actuality.
However after this week’s preliminary free-agent interval, when groups have been allowed to enroll to a few gamers to three-year contracts, all 9 slots on the three Canadian franchises have been stuffed by Canadian Olympians. Stateside, eight of the 9 signings have been members of the U.S. Nationwide Staff.
The lone exception? Defender Micah Zandee-Hart, a 26-year-old from Victoria, B.C. She served as captain at Cornell College in her senior yr, 2019-20, and has collected gold with Staff Canada at U18, world championship and Olympic occasions.
Zandee-Hart signed on with the PWHL’s New York franchise, together with U.S. forwards Alex Carpenter and Abby Roque.
New York normal supervisor Pascal Daoust can also be Canadian. Most not too long ago, he spent the final seven years because the GM of the Val D’Or Foreurs within the Quebec Main Junior Hockey League. Previous to that, he was an assistant coach with the ladies’s hockey crew on the College of Montreal, profitable two nationwide championships over six years.
Amongst Canada’s three groups, two GMs even have roots in Quebec.
Daniele Sauvageau, now operating the brand new Montreal franchise, is a Montreal native who coached Staff Canada to gold on the 2002 Winter Olympics. She based the College of Montreal girls’s hockey program and served as its GM, on the similar time that Daoust was an assistant coach.
Sauvageau’s first signings embrace two Quebec natives: Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin and goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens, together with 29-year-old ahead Laura Stacey, who’s Poulin’s fiancee.
The Toronto PWHL franchise is being managed by Gina Kingsbury, who was born in Saskatchewan however grew up in Quebec. After a profitable enjoying profession, Kingsbury launched into a administration path with Hockey Canada. She rose to develop into vp of hockey operations and was normal supervisor for Canada’s girls’s nationwide crew program since 2018.
Kingsbury’s first signings are additionally from Staff Canada — Nova Scotian ahead Blayre Turnbull and a pair of Ontarians: ahead Sarah Nurse and defender Renata Quick.
Rounding out the Canadian franchises, Ottawa was the primary crew to announce its signings, final Tuesday. Headed up by Michael Hirschfeld, the previous govt director of the NHL Coach’s Affiliation, the Staff Canada members signed to play within the nation’s capital are goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer, who hails from Alberta, together with forwards Emily Clark of Saskatchewan and Brianne Jenner of Ontario, who was named MVP on the 2022 Olympics.
Returning to the U.S., the Minnesota franchise is the one one exterior the Jap Time Zone. However the State of Hockey has a wealthy historical past with the ladies’s sport which warrants its inclusion as one of many first six franchises.
GM Natalie Darwitz is a local of Eagen, MN and an alumnus of the College of Minnesota. She spent three years as captain of Staff USA, together with on the 2010 Winter Olympics, and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Corridor of Fame.
Darwitz’s first signings are midwest-focused. Defender Lee Stecklein and ahead Kelly Pannek are each Minnesota natives and former captains of the Golden Gophers, whereas lightning-fast Kendall Coyne Schofield hails from the Chicago space. She gave beginning to her first baby in July.
Lastly, the Boston franchise is being overseen by Danielle Marmer — a Vermont native who performed at Quinnipiac earlier than working with their girls’s crew for 3 seasons as director of participant improvement and director of hockey operations. Final season, she labored with the NHL’s Boston Bruins as a participant improvement and scouting assistant.
Marmer’s first signings are headlined by arguably the best participant in U.S. girls’s hockey historical past, Hilary Knight. She beforehand hung out within the area with the Boston Blades of the CWHL and the NWHL’s Boston Delight. The group is rounded out by defender Megan Keller, 28, a Michigan native who attended Boston School, and goaltender Aerin Frankel, a 24-year-old New Yorker who went to Northeastern.
With the primary spherical of free company accomplished, the PWHL Draft is up subsequent. It can happen in Toronto on Sept. 18.
The draft shall be 15 rounds and comply with a snake format, the place the order of choice reverses for every spherical.
Minnesota will get the first-overall choice in Spherical 1:
Any gamers not chosen by the tip of the draft shall be deemed free brokers, and allowed to signal with any crew to fill out their 23-player rosters. PWHL coaching camps are anticipated to open on Nov. 15, with a begin date in January for this season’s 24-game schedule.
Within the meantime, there’s loads of housekeeping nonetheless to be addressed. A schedule must be constructed — which is anticipated to incorporate neutral-site video games which may unfold the visibility of the PWHL past its six residence markets. Additionally, groups want names, logos and residential bases. Thus far, solely Ottawa has introduced the place will probably be enjoying — at TD Place Area, residence of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, which has a capability of 6,500.
Beginning a league from scratch is an enormous enterprise, and the clock is ticking. However with Mark and Kimbra Walter writing the checks and their Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate Stan Kasten taking care of the logistics, the inspiration for the brand new league appears to be like to be stable for this new skilled girls’s hockey enterprise.