May 15, 2018 09:24 PM
Women's hockey in Minnesota takes a big step forward.
With a round of applause on Tuesday, the National Women’s Hockey League announced it has acquired the Minnesota Whitecaps.
“This is like a dream come true for me,” said Winny Brodt-Brown, the team captain. “It’s a long time coming.”
Brodt Brown grew up playing boys hockey because she said there were no teams available for girls.
The Whitecaps team was created 14 years ago to give women opportunity to play after college.
“Playing for their high school teams, winning state titles, girls winning national championships and now girls playing for the Isobel Cup on the professional level, is something none of us thought we would be a part of,” said Brodt-Brown.
She said there has been a lot of hard work leading up to this moment.
At least half a dozen Olympic athletes have played for the Whitecaps. Now the competitive team will join the four existing NWHL teams, the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters.
Commissioner Dani Rylan said the Whitecaps played NWHL teams during exhibition games in 2015.
“Since then we've known this is a market we want to come to,” Rylan said. “It's a little bit timing and running a league, and learning about operating a league takes time and resources and patience as well. I think we have the trifecta and we're ready to move forward.”
The league plans to announce during the offseason where the team will play. Rylan said they great experience at the TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center, where the league’s All-Star game sold out this year. About 1,200 seats were filled for that game, a positive sign for the Whitecaps.
“We expect that we'll have a very successful season ticket holder rush this offseason,” Rylan said. “We have no doubt the State of Hockey will do a good job filling the rink here.”
Rylan would not disclose NWHL salaries.
There are only seven players from Minnesota on the other teams' active rosters right now. According to Rylan, however, about 20 percent of all girls playing hockey in the U.S. are from Minnesota.
“So many times everyone just says college hockey is the end for women and it’s not anymore,” said Sami Reber, the head coach at Edina High School.
She hopes this will help promote women’s hockey.
“I'm excited for my girls to come through the program and say, While we're going through this college decision-making process there is another level for you to get to,'” said Reber.
Minnesota Hockey Division 2 Coordinator Joe Anderson said it’s a positive sign for youth hockey as well.
“As the parent of a daughter who’s a hockey player this is really exciting,” he said. “She's spent countless hours on the ice with these women coaching her over the years and now she gets to go watch them professionally.”
Anderson hopes it will also allow young athletes to see their mentors compete more regularly.
“They can have that role model and someone to look up to as a hockey player who they know and know are good people,” Anderson said.
Brodt Brown is excited for that opportunity.
“It’s good for the little girls playing hockey to have the Minnesota Whitecaps team,” she said. “To have role models, to come watch the game and see what they can achieve.”
Updated: May 15, 2018 09:24 PM
Created: May 15, 2018 04:56 PM
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