Darwitz named GM of Minnesota’s new PWHL team, will pick 1st in draft

Minnesota’s new professional women’s hockey team will be managed by a Hall of Famer.

Friday, the newly created Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) named the general managers for its inaugural six franchises, tabbing retired United States national team captain and Eagan native Natalie Darwitz as the lead executive for Minnesota’s team.

The announcement comes days after the league officially announced Minnesota as one of its first six franchises.

Darwitz is one of the state’s most renowned women’s hockey figures, having won two national titles while starring at the University of Minnesota, where she was a three-time NCAA All-American, before winning three IIHF World Championship gold medals and three Olympic medals. She’s also spent eight seasons as a head coach at the Division III and high school levels and served as an associate head coach at the University of Minnesota the past two seasons.

She’s also a member of the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame, “M” Club Hall of Fame, Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

The other appointed general managers were Danielle Marmer (Boston), Danièle Sauvageau (Montreal), Pascal Daoust (New York), Michael Hirshfeld (Ottawa) and Gina Kingsbury (Toronto).

“Securing highly qualified General Managers was a priority to help build strong foundations in each of our original six PWHL markets and delivering professional standards for all players,” Jayna Hefford, the senior vice president of hockey operations for the PWHL, said in a released statement. “The search process identified a lot of impressive candidates from which we’ve assembled an exceptional group with collective experience across the highest levels of the game, both on and off the ice.”

Additionally, the PWHL also announced the results of its draft lottery on Friday, awarding Minnesota the first overall pick in the inaugural draft.

The 15-round draft is scheduled for Sept. 18 and will use a snake format, in which each subsequent round uses the reverse order of the previous round.

The PWHL, which will feature a collection of the world’s top women’s hockey players, plans to launch play in January and is backed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and retired women’s tennis star Billie Jean King. The group is essentially building a league from scratch, a process that was spurred in late June when Walter bought out the rival Premier Hockey Federation — the league the Minnesota Whitecaps played in — to clear the way for one North American professional women’s hockey league.

Each team will be allowed to have up to 20 standard player agreements leading into training camps in November, with six players on each team getting three-year deals worth at least $80,000 per year.

Much work remains for the league before the season can kick off, however, with team names and home arenas yet to be announced. Once finalized, the league says each team will have 24 regular-season games.