The National Women’s Hockey League is adding a seventh team by expanding into Montreal next season, two people with direct knowledge of the league’s board of governors’ approved plan told The Associated Press.
The NWHL was initially scheduled to announce it was establishing its second Canadian franchise in early February. That timeline, however, was pushed back after the Isobel Cup playoffs were postponed following an outbreak of COVID-19, according to the two people who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for the NWHL.
League spokesman Paul Krotz, in an email sent late Monday, would say only that the NWHL had “nothing to report regarding Season 7 expansion.” Krotz said the league was instead focused on completing its playoffs outside of Boston this weekend.
Two weeks ago, NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia hinted that expansion was on the horizon without providing details.
“Yeah, it’s not too far off,” Tumminia told the AP in a phone interview. “We’re thinking about that a lot.”
The yet-to-be-named Montreal team would be run by the same BTM ownership group that owns the league’s Boston Pride and established the Toronto Six expansion franchise last year. The ownership group includes Cannon Capital managing partner Miles Arnone and Johanna Neilson Boynton, a two-time captain at Harvard.
The NWHL’s other teams are based in New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota and Buffalo, New York.
Expansion comes at a time the NWHL is undergoing a change at the executive level.
Tumminia took over as commissioner in October, replacing Dani Rylan Kearney, who founded the NWHL in 2015 as North America’s first professional women’s league to pay players a regular salary. Rylan Kearney stayed involved in overseeing the four league-run franchises — and was tasked with attracting potential ownership groups — before resigning last week.
The playoffs this weekend will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN. The NWHL was unable to award the Isobel Cup a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic forced the championship game to be canceled.
Top-seeded Toronto will face Boston in one semifinal on Friday, with the other featuring the second-seeded Minnesota Whitecaps playing the Connecticut Whale. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.